Re-Defining Moments

reflective drop

Sometimes the moments that turn our world upside down…are the very moments that bring shining clarity.

Defining moments. Do you have one? Or several?

It’s hard to believe that my defining moment was over 5 and a half years ago. Time is a weird thing. Because it seems like these really big moments – moments that change everything, like a birth of a child, or a death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis – are both like yesterday and a life time ago at the same time.

For me, it was the moment I gave up. I surrendered to my demons. Depression had won. I will spare the terrifying details, but I am incredibly lucky to have survived to tell about it.

I choose to write about this now and then for a few reasons. I don’t want to ever forget it, or take my life for granted. And I promised to find a way to make that terrible negative into an incredible positive…though at the time, I had no idea what that even meant or if it were even possible.

At the time it was termed a break down. But since the years have passed, it has turned into my break THROUGH. Break away. Break loose. Break free. Break ANYTHING but, down.

But no one had a way of knowing that. And it’s not a common thing. Most people that go through something like that don’t bounce back. If anything, they become a repeat statistic and a disabled victim of society.

So people steered clear and waited…holding their breath to see what might become of me. Heck. I was one of those people too. I had no idea if I had what it took to rise above and become a fully functioning person again. For months it was like walking on thin ice for sure.

But to their surprise…and even more to mine…I am kicking some break-through ass over here people! I mean can I get a witness? And this is not a bragging moment about how great I am. This is a bragging moment about how THANKFUL I am! I mean this could have easily gone south and be a very dark story – probably on a grave stone.

So what set me apart from the stats? How did I beat the odds of becoming a revolving door into the psyche ward of what I have termed “catch and release”?

In one simple and easy word…Perspective.

It sounds too damn easy, right? So easy, it’s elusive. A trick. Too good to be true.

But here is the thing. Changing your perspective is not as easy as it sounds. It’s the same reason addicts rarely can break their chains. Chemicals carve deep canyons of darkness into our brains that make it almost impossible to climb out of in order to create new paths, and carve new canyons of light.

Changing your perspective is not as easy as just making a quick rash decision or new year resolution. It requires intense, thoughtful, soul searching reflection. It requires active intention…followed by actual actions. And then repetitive, intentional, thoughtful actions. Then follow up to those actions, and so on. It’s actual work!

Actions reaching toward a defined goal. Just as if you were working out. This is like a work out for your brain, emotions and soul. And instead of a goal of getting your body fit and healthy…your goal is to get brain and emotions fit and healthy. Just like working out – you have to be committed and do it even on the days you don’t feel like it! (And physically working out doesn’t hurt either).

And people…NEVER, EVER, discount the possibility or need to take doctor prescribed medication. It is really, really foolish to think you don’t need it. It’s as foolish as a diabetic refusing their meds. And in time, you may or may not even need them…but if a medical professional recommends it…for God’s sake try it. Depression is a chemical imbalance. Take it from me…Depression cannot be beaten on prayers alone.

I equate medication to a catalyst that flings you towards your goal of getting healthy. No matter how hard I had tried to break free of my dark canyon, I couldn’t jump high enough without that damn medication. As much as I may hate to admit it…it was just the kick in the ass I needed.

Each day I took baby steps. I had no idea what to expect. I just knew I had to keep taking one little step at a time. It required getting out of my comfort zone. Letting go of the past. Cutting off destructive people in my life. And most of all…finding the beauty in the every day life that was all around me. Everything that I took for granted before, was now like a child like wonder.

I didn’t know at the time how pivotal that last point was going to be in my life. I had always been a nature nut, but I didn’t know it was going to change me or save my life.

In my quest to go out and find beauty right where I was, I ended up discovering a whole new world I didn’t know really existed – right under my nose…under my feet…all around.

Rebuilding myself was not easy. It honestly was like being reborn. Maybe that is why it all came together the way it did. I had become child like. As if I were breathing, walking and seeing things – all for the first time.

I started going out and looking at frost up close for the first time – with the stubborn curiosity of a child. And what I found was extraordinary! The sheer detail in one tiny flake of frost is incredibly fascinating and humbling. Then I started studying individual snowflakes. And in the spring it was all about the morning dew drops

on ordinary grass and weeds that transformed the yard into sparkling jewels and reflective drops.

And now…I find it everywhere. Beauty in nearly everything. That has spilled over into many other areas of my life. I am more patient, kind, and forgiving – but far, far from perfect, and I don’t get it right every time. My kids and husband will be the first to tell you, I am still have limits and can lose my mind now and then. And there are still people in my life that present ever growth building potential. : )

The goal has never been perfection anyway! And that should never be your goal for anything either! That only sets you up for failure and giving up.

The goal is just baby steps forward, every day, toward some kind of goal. That’s all I still continue to do now. I just update my goals from time to time to keep me reaching and growing. Even when I take a few steps backwards…I am still so much farther forward than I was almost 6 years ago.

Newsflash…that’s all any successful person is doing anyway! Taking baby steps forward and totally winging it! I was reminded of that when I watched Cast Away this weekend. Great movie, and there is a line in there where he says, “I just had to keep breathing, and keep going. One day at a time”.

Look. There is no road map to any of this. But know you are not alone in any of this as well. Nature Nut stuff may not be your thing, and that is ok. But find something. Find your inner nerd child/kid and run with it like your life depended on it.

Life is short. Life is unfair. Life is hard. All obvious clichés. But life is also full of crazy beauty. Find it.

I share a lot of the beauty I find now with others online. Sometimes people are just as amazed as I was at some of these sights. And that spurs me on to keep going and dig even deeper. It’s not just for myself now, but helping others find the beauty right where they are too.

What started out as one day at a time, one photo at a time, has become a real passion. I am not the best photographer by any means. I don’t go out thinking I’m going to get the greatest shot ever. I just have fun. In my mind, I’m just a kid with a camera on a scavenger hunt. Cause that’s just it – I never know what I might find. And 9 times out of 10 the best picture I get any given day is a shot I had not planned on getting.

Look me up on Instagram @findbeautywhereyouare and if you find some amazing beauty right where you are – #it to #findbeautywhereyouare

It’s my little movement and tribute to jumping out of my dark canyon into a new lighter, sillier path. It would be the best compliment ever and be one more baby step toward making that negative into something positive, and towards something much bigger than me.


The Unspeakable

Every now and then I have little windows or memories of some past life. My childhood. A very far removed and strange life time ago that seems more like a thing of fiction rather than my own real history. Different things trigger these memories. Usually horrific news stories. Today I heard about a mom that killed herself.

It reminded me of a day that my brother and I have never spoken of since it happened 30 years ago.

I was getting off the bus and as I rounded the corner I saw an ambulance at my house. I started running toward the house and saw the stretcher being wheeled out. The body on the stretcher was covered completely. My brother who was about 16 at the time walked silently behind the medics. Why were they all walking in slow motion?!

At this point my heart had dropped out of my body and I couldn’t feel my limbs as I ran toward the house screaming like a maniac. I remember thinking – I know I am screaming, but why can’t I hear myself! All I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears like bass drum…so I tried to scream louder because apparently my voice was not working.

And my legs weren’t working right – they were numb – like stumps of concrete attached to my body. I couldn’t focus…I saw my feet, the sky, the house, the stretcher, my legs, my brother… As I got closer my neighbors grabbed me and took me to their house.

They reassure me everything is going to be fine and try to distract me, but tell me NOTHING! I was like – what is this? Bizarro world? What the hell? I believe they even tried to get me to play checkers and eat spaghetti. I felt like a caged animal, but yet was too scared to do anything but sit there blankly.

I am not sure how many days it took to find out. I really don’t remember much after that. I have no idea where I even stayed that night or the night after that. But here is what had actually happened that day.

First, you should know some brief history. Mom had been severely ill. So chemically imbalanced she was functioning more like a 99 year old person on major drugs than a 38 year old. This is really weird for me – I am now 38. It is at THIS point in her life that my own mother gave up on life.

She talked with a severe slur like she had cotton in her mouth, and very delayed speech. Her speech didn’t make sense, she would repeat herself over and over and talk to things or people that weren’t there, or act like you weren’t there. She would be overly expressive with dramatic mood swings where she would be so very kind one moment and turn into a raving monster the next.

She was very, very ill. She should have been in the hospital at this point. Dad and her had already divorced, but were trying to reconcile. Or shall I say, dad wanted to reconcile. Mom was really not on board with the plan. For some reason, being around dad made her worse. But dad wanted to help. He really thought that he was doing a good thing and trying to take care of her.

But finally one day, she really couldn’t take it anymore. She had tried to overdose before on prescription pills, but those were really half assed attempts more for attention than anything.

This time was different. She proceeded to get undressed, draw a nice hot bath…and then start slitting. She slit both wrists and waited for death.

She had it calculated out just right so that by the time I got home from school I would find her quite dead. But she just didn’t count on my brother having some kind of sixth sense.

Sometime around 3:30 my brother suddenly felt the urge to leave football practice and drive home as fast as he possibly could. Something made him fly into the house and find her like that. Something made him save her just in time. Something made him be the hero that only he could have been and prevented his 8 year old sister from witnessing something that would have totally destroyed her.

Yes – my mother was not successful. Not like the mother that I heard about today.

My brother didn’t speak to anyone for about a year. He is still a man of little words, but that year was a year of silence. And 30 years later, we have still never spoke of the “event”.

Once we were at a family dinner years afterward – we were both adults. I think it was Thanksgiving or something. After the big meal we were both just relaxing and sitting on the couch while dad flipped through the channels. Mindlessly dad stopped at a graphic scene of a woman that was sitting in a chair with a slit neck, just bleeding to death. For some reason dad just stayed on that scene until I had to say, “Change the freaking channel!”

After what seemed like 5 minutes, of just sitting there staring off into space at images flipping through the stupid TV, my brother and I looked at each other with wide eyes in shock as we both realized we had clinched fists and were barely breathing and we knew exactly what the other was thinking.

Somehow we actually managed to laugh – because we both looked so ridiculous with our wide eyes, white knuckles, and shallow breathing as if we had both seen a ghost – underwater or something. Not to mention the awkward tension you could feel because dad felt like a complete jackass and was trying to pretend nothing happened, which made it oddly comical.

And THAT is the closest we have ever come to having a conversation about the unspeakable.

My brother and I used to be like that. So close that we didn’t even have to talk to know what the other was thinking. Though we were 8 years apart, we grew extraordinarily close because of the bizarre circumstances under which we lived. We were the only sane ones in the family. We were the adults and we realized we were doing a really lousy job of raising our parents!

Sadly, today, my brother and I barely speak. We are no longer the close siblings that finish each others thoughts and sentences. Honestly, we don’t even know what to say to each other. We each have our own busy lives and children to raise.

We each have thrown ourselves into parenthood with such tenacity and overzealousness that from the outside might just look like an extraordinary effort at parenting (not saying that I am an extraordinary parent – but at certain times I have been guilty of losing myself to parenthood altogether). With closer examination perhaps it’s more like an attempt to over compensate for or give our children the polar opposite of the childhood we knew.

Growing up with a parent with a severe mental illness is a very scary, confusing and lonely path. You don’t really know what is normal, so you try to make your very crazy circumstances somehow “normal” just to cope and survive. But in doing so, you warp your whole developmental ideas, foundation, and dreams of the future.

Just like a pendulum swinging wildly out of control, at some point, it has to come to a rest somewhere in the middle. That is where I am right now. Trying to find that balance in the middle.

I am finding that balance, coincidentally because I am divorced. I am forced to take a step back and some time out from parenting…if even for brief moments of time. I am forced into having some me time. My brother doesn’t have that.

Ironically my mother and I have a somewhat decent, yet superficial relationship. I have accepted long ago that even with some awesome medical breakthroughs, she will still always be limited in her capacity to love, give and be a “mom”.

More ironically, my brother and mother have a nonexistent relationship. My mom loathes the son she gave birth to that saved her life. My brother has given up trying to help or save her over and over from all kinds of other dramas of her exhausting self destructive life.

And strangely, she is probably more healthy than maybe ever before. Were we all enabling her? By trying to help her all these years, were we making her worse?

Sometimes I get so sad that I don’t feel like I have a brother anymore. I have mourned that relationship for years now. I have been angry and hurt beyond belief, but then I remember…how he was the hero that I will always be indebted to. How he witnessed and carried the burden that I was supposed to have carried. And I realize I could never stay angry at him.

Because no matter how hard I try to understand what he may have actually saw and the magnitude of what he shielded me from – I will never be capable of fully grasping – the unspeakable.