Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hope confronting violence

There are a lot of painful questions on the internet today.  What happened, Ferguson? 

Last night I went to bed hoping along with everyone that the people in Ferguson would hear pleas for non-violence. What happened?

A kid.  An angry kid.  A community, distrustful of the people sworn to protect them. What happened?

This morning, so many people on on their contradicting soapboxes, the noise is deafening. What happened? 

There is an evil- and I mean satanic- glee in some corners.  To take such delight in suffering is not human. It just isn't. 

There is rage. Disquieted sympathy. Agitated, agitating. 

A pressure cooker with a tiny clog is a bomb in the house.  Can we see the problem without pointing fingers?  

Sheltered suburban America.  We like to pretend that violence doesn't exist.  We create distance. It is a coping mechanism, and it works. Them. They. There. 

We want to comprehend.  We want a complete, tucked in, ownership of the story; a neat little box can be closed and stacked in the appropriate closet. 

I hear fear.  I hear rage.  I hear sniggering.  I hear pleas. 

"We are a nation of laws." Guffawing.  How can you laugh?

I need to hear hope.  I need to hear love.  I need to know that this challenge to change will be met.

"The fact is that no one can be by nature superior to his fellows, since all men are equally noble in natural dignity. And consequently there are no differences at all between political communities from the point of view of natural dignity." Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris
Where is the dignity?  What happened?

"Our families are torn by violence. Our communities are destroyed by violence. Our faith is tested by violence. We have an obligation to respond. Violence -- in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and world -- is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers.
The best antidote to violence is hope. People with a stake in society do not destroy communities." 
Confronting A Culture Of Violence: A Catholic Framework For Action, A Pastoral Message of the U.S. Catholic Bishops
If we want to raise our children in a better world, we have to hope.  The anger, the pride, the cynicism, the resignation-- claim hope. Believe that we can be better- that we are better. Baby steps.  In my house, we will start by praying.
"God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the Earth."  Pope Benedict XVI
We will love.  We will learn. We will pray. We will hope.
"Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God."  Matthew 5:9

Monday, November 24, 2014

Habits. Part 2. Wherein we break bad habits. And I mean smash them to bits.

Summer is usually our down time.  Much of my support system is built on teachers, and they have summers off.  So, my support system is stronger, or at least more flexible.  Sarah breathes better in the summer. She is not sick as often.

This summer, we spent time at my Godmother's house on Cape Cod.  It is such a beautiful place. While we were there, Sarah breathed better than she ever has. It was a magical vacation. Since she breathed so well, and since ICU stays are expensive, we have decided to submit to insurance a claim for a house of our own up there. (We didn't.  This is a joke.)

After I got through my fight with anxiety, we had a few peaceful weeks.

Then, Autumn.  It used to be my favorite season.

Sarah started school, which is both the best and the worst news! (Yay class interaction and therapy!  Boo germs!)  I decided to homeschool Lily this year.  (I promise to write about that soon.)  Sarah had a surgery. (That too.)  We are facing cold and flu season.

But really, things seemed to be going well.

We joined a CSA over the summer.  We had decided to make general health a priority. Every week we collected a beautiful box of fresh produce from a local farm. Josh decided he wanted to run a marathon. I am so proud of him for setting such an ambitious goal!

He had been diagnosed with asthma about a decade ago.  He has not had trouble recently, but I really thought that if he was going to run a marathon, he should get it checked out and get cleared.  He went in for a full physical.

Good news! No asthma! He is clear to run!
Bad new: Diabetes.

The old truism, "Its not fair," comes to mind.


New specialists.  New appointments.  New doctors.  You don't get to talk back when life hands you a rotten diagnosis, but you don't have to lose control either.  We have been learning a whole lot of stuff we never wanted to know.  Again.

We chose right away to spin it. This diagnosis hurts.  It is scary.  It is going to mean good things.  Not just for Josh, but for the whole family.

The day after the diagnosis, I cleaned out the fridge, throwing away anything Josh couldn't eat.  If he couldn't eat it, it didn't need to be in the house.  We're doing this as a family.  (Well.  Except the Halloween candy.  I am not that cruel.  I won't eat it now, but the kids still can.  Is that a reward?  We won't be doing mac and cheese anymore, at least not a main course.  Not even for lunch. But at least they don't have to share their Halloween candy!)

As soon as we told people, we got advice.  Vegan! Paleo!  (Wait. What?)  We basically lived on kale for a few days.  I like kale.  My husband (still) likes me. Kale is inexpensive and filling.  I tried four different preparations in that first week.  (Josh liked one of them!)  Thankfully, he had an appointment with a dietitian to make a personalized meal plan.  I went with him.  I am doing this too.  What the heck is a diabetic diet?  I'm an excellent cook, but I need to know the rules.  What are the rules?

Diabetes is, among other things, a battle against bad habits.  Good food is good.  Bad food is very bad. Exercise is important.  Count. Pay attention. Measure. No cheating. OK. This is going to be good.  This is not going to be easy, but it is going to be good.

We've been promised that at some point you stop wanting terrible foods. I don't know if that's true.  Breaking habits is hard. What will my new go to its-5:30p.m.-and-I-haven't-cooked-anything dinner for the family be?  (Fish, if you are wondering.)  What will I reach for if I'm hungry at 3:30?

We are only a few weeks in.  We are learning.  I still like Kale, but I've diversified.  Josh is training for his marathon.  I'm not, but I get up and exercise when he goes out to run in the morning before the kids are up.  The kids have stopped asking for dessert.  Becca joins me in eating Kale, even when no one else will.  This is going to be awesome.

Habits. Part 1

Anxiety crept in.  Sleepless night after sleepless night, culminating in an unnerving fear which depleted me.  I thought I was dying.

I called my sister. I was alone with my kids.  Somewhere in my irrational mind, I knew I'd be OK, but I didn't want to be alone.  I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to know that if I fell, someone would know and take care of my kids.

I made an appointment with my doctor.  Anxiety.

"But it didn't feel like anxiety!  It felt like I was dying!"
"That what a panic attack is."

Knowing I was healthy was actually enough to stop my panic attacks, but it sent me searching. How? Why?

It turns out anxiety and depression are both pretty common among special needs parents.  We don't get enough sleep.  We are often isolated.  Even when we are with friends, it can be hard to talk.

Our friends are tired of hearing about medical stuff which is mostly gibberish to them.  How many times have I stopped myself from yammering on about how the stupid pulse-ox kept me awake all night even though the sats were fine.  We see it in their faces.  They want to be sympathetic.  They are sympathetic.  But they are also tired of hearing the complaining.  We are lonely.  Our friends have become a "they."

It is so easy to feel sorry for yourself.  It is so, so easy.  When every story, even your happy stories, are so foreign to your listeners that when you get to the end they give you sad eyes. "I'm sorry."

It is so easy to lose your optimism.  Take your eyes off the light for an instant and you are lost, wandering in a foggy maze of dead-ends and what-ifs. Troubles, real and imagined, haunted my mind. My kids. My health. My husband's health. Echoes of political unrest all over the world.  Viral images from Facebook kept me awake. All these jumbled and more, shadowy phantoms.

I'd watch mind-numbing TV for the express purpose of numbing my mind. I'd choose shows for their vacuous appeal.  As I'd finally drift off to exhausted sleep, one worry, any worry, would set my heart racing. There is just so much evil. I'd get sick and be up another hour trying to calm down.

I had never thought of myself as a weak person, but I was enfeebled.  Broken.  Depression is an ugly thing. And the worst part, it is self feeding.  You believe terrible things. I felt guilty for feeling depressed.

Writing can draw out the poison.  The internet is cluttered with people pouring their pain into an anonymous polity. I didn't even want to write. Words form thoughts, and to be honest I was afraid of what I might find if I started feeling around for form in that darkness.

I have an incredible support system.  My husband, ever strong, gentle, and kind, would not let me wallow.  My parents and siblings listened and took time to understand the medical gibberish so I never was isolated, certainly not as isolated as I felt.  I do have friends- good friends, and some of them understand the gibberish.  I don't know how I fell.  If there is a straw it is well hidden in the haystack.  I don't know how I got back up. That is a post for another day.

I do know how I muddled through and never actually lost hope.

People like to rag on habitual prayer.

"In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words."  Matthew 6:7

I imagine God as Eliza in My Fair Lady. "Words, words, words! I'm so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you!  Is that all you blighters can do?"  Let's not analyze that too deeply.

Habitual prayer was my lifeline.  No matter how my words failed or how deep set my fears, I was going to pray a few times a day.  Morning and evening prayer.  Grace before meals. Every time I was afraid. I couldn't see where I was going, but there was a thread to hold.

When I am scared, really scared, I recite the Memorare.  When I think about it, I believe the words of the prayer but when I am scared, it is just words. Comforting, comfortable, familiar words.  But, it is not a magic spell, it is a plea.  I'm not babbling.  I'm crying.  And He hears.  And He answers.  Every time.