#Reverb13: Grieving

What have you lost, what are you grieving?

Originally I thought this was the second hardest prompt — but I sat with it a little longer and realized it was the hardest. Why is that, you wonder? The year 2013 has brought far too much loss and grief to my family in so many ways. We lost two members of our family — both of Brian’s parents within 3 weeks of each other. A state agency forced Brian out of the home and took our oldest child a mere 2 days later after the urgings of one social worker who seemingly has horrendous judgment and credibility in the first place. I nearly lost my job due to lack of transportation and reliable childcare. We have gone practically bankrupt in an effort to maintain two households and an insane increase in gas consumption. All in all, this year has been a struggle.

It’s incredibly painful to sit with these feelings of grief and loss. To have the father of my children removed from our home because one person wrongfully believes he is this fearsome monster ready to murder babies on a whim? To watch the tears and hear the sobs and pleas from my children to have their daddy come home? To struggle with questions of my oldest’s whereabouts, safety, and comfort? To struggle with fears that my oldest is being mistreated or misinformed? To wonder and fear when they might prey upon the two sweet children still in my care? To feel helpless to protect my family from an overly powerful agency that seems to lack the checks and balances enforced for nearly every other agency? To feel helpless to the bureaucratic justice system? It’s been so incredibly painful and torturous. I’m shocked, frankly, that people still look at me and see a youthful woman because I feel as thought this year has aged me at least a decade. Sleep is difficult to come by, even more difficult to sacrifice each morning. Feeding myself has become a chore. Taking the time to write and be with myself feels selfish and unproductive. Keeping up with the many responsibilities that come with forced single motherhood plagues me daily. Dishes. Laundry. Cooking. Working. Shuttling. Homework. Bathing. My lust for life has been dampened by people who really aren’t acquainted with me or my family. While I believe I may have finally broken through the concrete wall in a recent meeting this month, I still feel like they don’t quite grasp the severity of the harm they’ve done to this family. They want us to believe that we are evil — to shout that we are saved by them. But why should I give into their desires when I know they barely know us? Why should I let them win when so much is riding on my passion to fight and nurture my family as I see fit? Why should I let them treat us the same as drug addicts, abusers, and neglecters who simply don’t care a bit about the precious lives they’ve created? Why should I let them demean us and leave us feeling as though we’re wronging our children by acknowledging that at least one needs some extra help in order to thrive? Shouldn’t we be commended for seeking help for our son? Shouldn’t we be lauded for recognizing his cries for help? I don’t understand it. And I think that’s what hurts the most — not understanding how the majority can see things for what they are while a small subgroup in a state agency twists things to suit their agenda. It makes no sense, and it pains me that I’m still fighting to win back that which matters most. I see that several important figures are realizing that we need our family reunited, but it doesn’t stop me from grieving the lost time that we will never get back. It doesn’t stop me from grieving the loss of 5 family birthdays together. It doesn’t stop me from grieving the loss of 4 seasons together. It doesn’t stop my from grieving one little bit — and I’m not sure how long it will take to heal the hurt they have caused.


#Reverb13: Auto-Pilot

Living life on auto-pilot can feel disorienting and dull. How did you cultivate a life worth loving during 2013? How can you turn off your auto-pilot button in 2014?

My life this year has felt like a daily wash-rinse-repeat routine. Wake up. Get out of bed. Be a responsible adult. Go to bed. Repeat. Between battling a state agency and near-crippling depression (as a direct result of the former), everyday felt nearly the same. On the outside I tried to display my typical exuberance — but on the inside, I felt soul-less and defeated. While on one hand taking each day in smaller, more manageable parts has helped, I’ve also felt less optimistic and less spontaneous. I did my best to force some moments of spontaneity into my life, but those moments were based on my inability to plan ahead without fear of outside interference crushing even the simplest of plans. Because I’ve felt so constricted, I’ve begun feeling less and less like even putting forth the effort to plan ahead or be capricious. I’ve drifted through most of my days this year, feeling like my life’s just a blur at this point.

Next year, I need to rejuvenate myself so that I can take hold of moments that inspire spur-of-the-moments excursions. I need to impress upon that state agency that my family has the constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and I shouldn’t have to have a details agenda prepared for them to suit their needs. Once I successfully beat this state agency, I’m going to redistribute that energy into more cultivation of a life worth loving. I’m going to go back to planning fun family outings that promote bonding and relaxation.


#Reverb13 Batch 5

What was the greatest risk you took in 2013? What was the outcome?

The greatest risk by far has been to wake up daily and face my life. Each day held immeasureable obstacles, especially early on during the year. Before I finally obtained my driver’s license — my license to freedom — my fate rested in the hands of others, teetering precariously from employment to unemployment, from single motherhood to total destruction. The outcome has been great. By simply facing each day with limited expectations and taking it in smaller, more manageable parts, I have learned that I can face these risks of losing everything by simply slapping on my smile and going about my business fiercely.

What precious things have you gathered in 2013? Which memories from this year do you wish to keep with you always?

I have gathered precious moments of my children, my husband, and my co-workers-turned-family. I wouldn’t trade a single moment of those memories for any amount of money or material goods. The sentimental value of love, support, and encouragement has far too much value. The moments spent enjoying the company of my family has far too much value. If I could, I would record each one for future reference.

Today, identify something muddy that kept recurring for you throughout 2013, and then ask yourself this: What’s the clear truth underneath this damn mud if I finally wash myself clean?

(Author’s Note: in batch 4, I mistakenly said this prompt was second hardest — I actually meant prompt 4, but this would replace the 3rd place prompt!)

I’ve had a great deal of mud flung at me throughout 2013 — mostly by a single woman who seemingly had it out for me and my entire family because she disagrees with our style. Underneath all this mud is a worthwhile woman. There is a worthwhile mother who loves and nurtures her children with all her heart. There is a brave warrior passionately defending that which matters most. Underneath all of this mud you’ll find the beating heart of an incredibly resilient and strong woman who refuses to let others control her destiny or destroy her dreams.

Please post your favourite picture of yourself from 2013, self-portrait or otherwise!



#Reverb13 Batch 4

How will you practice self-compassion?

I understand Jill’s dilemma all too well — practicing self-compassion in moments when we need it most but lack it even more. Moments when we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom and failed miserably. I’ve had far too many moments like that this year. It took some wise words from a dear friend to help me muttle through those moments and practice self-compassion. So, I practice living one day at a time, taking life in stride, and suspending any expectations for my plans. When the moment strikes, I try to remind myself that I’ve faced so much adversity with courage already that I know I’m strong enough to handle this. I try to give myself a moment to simply sit down by myself and do whatever needs to be done — drink water or tea, have something to eat, think, or simply rest. Going forward, I’m going to try to have a “bad day box” on hand to help me practice more self-compassion and get through the moments of misery and failure.

Look at what you see in the mirror. How does it change if you view yourself with eyes that can only look forward?

This is the third hardest prompt (12 came in second, and 10 came in first, considering I wrote it and need to do it justice) of #reverb13. Some times I have a hard time stopping to simply see myself. I see the future as I’d like it, but I don’t quite see myself. I suppose when you look back, you view all that you have accomplished, all that you have endured, and all that may have gone awry. When you look forward, it seems kind of hazy and foggy, a veil of mist obstructing your view. Looking forward, I see myself growing into a wise sage like some of the very lovely women I’ve had the opportunity to meet both off and online. I see myself growing into the kind of mother that kids (eventually) turn to for advice on a great number of issues. I see myself as a source of inspiration for the next generations — the motivation to fight for what matters most and for what’s just. I see myself as a passionate writer and speaker, advocating for those in need. I see myself with eyes that hold great expectations, and I hope with all my heart that I do not fail the wise old woman who is waiting for me to become her.

2014 is going to be MY YEAR because… I’m going to grab hold of it firmly and remind 2014 that I have overcome the adversity of 2013. Given all the strife I’ve endured this year, I’m surely much stronger than I was on December 31st, 2012.
In 2014, I am going to do… everything I can to reunite my family and get back on track, focusing on that which matters most, cultivating that life worth loving.
In 2014, I am going to feel… relieved, healed, rejuvenated, and content.
In 2014, I am not going to… allow outside forces to continue hurting me, my family, and anyone else I hold dear to my heart.
In December 2014, I am going to look back and say… “I’m so glad to have achieved so much and saved our family.”


#Reverb13 Batch 3

Were you able to loosen those fetters this year, and if you were successful, how did you manage it? Did you accept outside help, or work alone? If you still feel that grasp of addiction or hurtful habits, what will you do differently in the year to come?

To be honest, this year has tempted me in a variety of ways. Losing our food stamps in September, though, finally pushed me over the edge. You see, they take the leftover doughnuts from the day back to the break room almost every night. And I have a gluten intolerance of an undiagnosed degree. And I’ve been poor. And hungry. And I have been eating gluten almost daily again. I keep trying to stop — keep trying to sit with the hunger. But I can’t. With everything else going on in life, I’ve been too ravenous, eating to stuff down my emotions. I’ve had wonderful people donate gluten free food (rice, potatoes, veggies, etc.), but I still end up succumbing to the soft, chewy goodness of free doughnuts. And cookies. And cakes. And just about anything else that I can’t pass up. Free macaroni and cheese? You betcha! Stuffing? Eaten it!

Considering this year I never observed Lent, I’ve scheduled a strict detox diet coming up in March. I’m going to get back to my gluten free habits. I’m going to cut back on the caffeine (of which makes up probably 50% of my blood currently). I’m going to cut out sugar. I’m even going to go as far as cutting out CHOCOLATE this coming March. If you know anything about me, you know that this is serious business. Keeping me locked up in the house business. I will be avoiding most electronic devices during this time, only handling whatever business is absolutely necessary to my affairs.

What word did you select to be your travelling companion in 2013? What gifts did this word bring? What word will you choose to guide you through 2014? What do you hope it will bring into your life?

I selected “journey” for my word for 2013, although “transformation” seemed to have other plans. So, we’ll go with the phrase “transformational journey.” I have learned a great deal about myself, my family, others, and the bigger picture this year. I have been giving the gift of change, even if I have been begrudging this gift for much of the year. I am choosing “recovery” for 2014. I want to recover the lost members of my family. I want to recover my health. I want to recover my career. I want to see my children recover from this incredible trauma. I want to see recovery for our family after a single person was able to single-handedly rend us apart.

In the midst of living, did you find moments to breathe? Were there moments that held you in the embrace of peace and quiet and pure contentment? Did these moments catch you by surprise or did you create the space for peace to find you?

Quite honestly, yes, I found incredibly surprising moments of peace during the year. They came in the form of watching a sunset with a cup of tea, losing myself in a good song, watching the children play with their friends, or simply enjoying the warmth of a soft blanket. I didn’t realize I could still feel at peace, even though my life had been plunged into turmoil.


#Reverb13: Batch 2

Here’s my second batch of prompts from Kat’s #reverb13:

What went right in 2013? Maybe you didn’t quit smoking or lose those pounds or go to Paris, but something did work, did happen, and/or was realized. What was it?

Considering how much went so very, very wrong in 2013, I can say that I’ve noticed quite clearly what went right. I learned that I have built a strong support network here at work, and my support network has definitely kept my head above water during this incredibly difficult time. My managers have been understanding, my co-workers have been pillars of strengthen, and even my neighbors have shown me what true community is all about. So while my plans for community didn’t come to fruition, I did experience the love and support of my community.

Who inspired you in 2013? And why? What gifts did they give you? And how will you carry these forward in to 2014?

I’m having a difficult time choosing one person who inspired me more than anyone else. This is because many people inspired me to fight for that which matters most and continue to seek justice. Many people have inspired me to continue cultivating a life worth loving — to continue my quest to nurture my family, friends, community, and dreams. They gave me the gifts of affirmation and love, support and care. I will carry these gifts forward in my heart, reminding myself constantly that there are many people on my side, here to encourage me to be the best version of myself and to raise my family with values.

What challenges lie ahead in 2014? How might you meet them boldly?

Several challenges actually lie ahead in 2014, but I would say the biggest challenge will be mending my fractured family back together. I wasn’t quite successful this year, but I know I can’t lose next year. I’m going to boldly meet that challenge with all my might. I’m going to fiercely fight against those who oppose me and recruit even more support from those who wish to see my family win this devastating battle.

In 2014, how could you explore what community means to you? Where might the alchemy be?

I can explore how community can flow and mesh between the off and online words. The alchemy meets in the middle, where the thin line between both worlds fade, each world colliding in this new age of singularity.

What was the best decision you made in 2013? What were the results? How will you continue the good work in 2014?

The best decision I made in 2013 was to continue to stand tall and continue to pursue my dreams. The results have been a little spotty, but overall I’ve remained strong and overcome quite a lot of adversity. I will continue the good work in 2014 by making the very best decisions possible to give my family a leg up — to rebuild our lives and heal our hearts.

Give us a sensory tour of 2013. How would you describe the year that’s passing in terms of: Sight? Sound? Smell? Taste? Touch?

Sight: hazy.
Sound: droning.
Smell: gunsmoke.
Taste: bitter.
Touch: chilling.


#Reverb13: Catching Up

The beautiful Kat McNally is hosting this year’s #reverb13. I’m following along with her on this journey and gearing up for 2014 (and my next chapter with the Cultivate series). Here’s my catch-up:

How do you feel, on this first day, in your mind? In your body? In your heart? In your soul?

I’m feeling hopeful and motivated in my mind. I’m feeling ill right down into my bones physically, though. My heart has been filled with a combination of hope and sadness as of late. My soul… feels raw and fragile.

What made your soul feel most nourished this year?

The love and support I received from nearly everyone in my community — both off and online — has nourished my soul the most this year. I couldn’t have ever imagined such a horrendous sequence of events to happen to my family, but I also couldn’t have ever imagined such an amazing outpouring of love.

What does your heart have to tell you?