“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” ~ Max Lerner

Near Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Near Trail of Blue Ice, Portage, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” ~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero 

42-16057799I’ve been reading like a mad woman for the past few days: The Alchemist(Paul Coelho), The Hours (Michael Cunningham), an older one by Jonathan Kellerman, The Butcher’s Theater, and a very early one from James Lee Burke, Black Cherry Blues. (I plan to write some reviews soon, here’s hoping.)

Why so much reading? The alternative is to sit down at this computer and produce something. Each night, I approach my desk as if it were an anathema to me: my body feels alien in the curves of my chair; my screen looms in front of me—tasking me like the white whale. I fear that to sit in my chair for any amount of time might somehow completely drain my body of the little energy I have left. So I walk back to the bed, pick up a book off the stack, or turn on the television.

I have regressed to my amoebic state: I am being whipped about in my single-cell form, a body in motion not of its own volition. I have to tell you that this is a very odd position in which to find myself: being propelled along by forces beyond my control and not having the least idea as to how to escape this eddying current without smashing myself against the rocks.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man perfected without trials” ~ Chinese Proverb

I suppose an update is in order. The current state of affairs is that the job that Corey had hoped would still be open with Vane Brothers is, of Merchant Mariner Documentcourse, no longer available because it took so long to get his Coast Guard certifications. He is making telephone calls, sending out e-mails, doing everything he can, but our hopes that with the arrival of the certified documents from the Coast Guard would come a job seem to be all for naught.

He is so beside himself with feelings of self-doubt that it just wounds me to my core. Having gone through a period of unemployment myself, I know all too well how it affects the psyche, chips away at your sense of self-worth, tears at the very fabric of your soul.

Corey is a wonderful, caring person. He does not deserve this continued assault on his self-esteem. And I am powerless to do anything about it. In fact, it seems that the more that I try, the harder it is for him. I don’t mean in the sense of negating his feelings, but rather, by trying to be there for him, it seems to heighten the issues.

It’s as if my presence serves as a constant reminder of all of the things that are going wrong. It’s no one’s fault. That’s just how it is. His failure at finding a job in his field in this economy is moot. What stands out is the failure itself, regardless of the fact that it is not his. I fear that my words of encouragement sound hollow to him. At times, I let them die on my tongue like sand baked in the sun.

“In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.” ~ Bertrand Russell 

abandoned steel factoryI am reminded of the many closings of mill towns across America, the ways in which once thriving communities were left as mere shells of their former days of productivity. With one decision somewhere in a boardroom in another city far, far away, entire towns were dealt death blows, the only reminder of their once prosperous slice of the American pie remaining in abandoned rusting factories, blights on the landscape.

As could be predicted, in many of those communities with nothing left, alcoholism and drug addiction statistics rose. Of those citizens who decided to stay, the rate of unemployment skyrocketed as did the incidences of spousal abuse.

We are a careless society. We throw away entire communities and never look back. And then when the need for assistance increases, we have obtuse politicians making comments about hunger being a great motivator. It sickens and frightens me simultaneously: Everything can disappear in a moment.

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And so we are now left with accepting help from Corey’s parents to fix the disaster of the dead Trooper. The engine cannot be rebuilt. It would cost more to do so than the Trooper is currently worth. So Izzie is off to an Ohio junkyard. I try not to think about it.

Ohio JunkyardSo Corey’s mom and dad are stepping in with a vehicle. It is a life-saver and an anchor. While their intentions are incredibly generous—to help us out of this fix, Corey is finding it very hard to reconcile himself to the idea of accepting support in this way at this point in his life. It makes him feel as if he is a child again, dependent upon his parents to fix things.

After previous years of doing well with our combined incomes, being brought back to square one is akin to starting all over again.

I understand Corey’s frustrations. I felt exactly the same way when my father stepped in and bought the big ugly Buick after my Oldsmobile was totaled. Here I was, a grown woman with children, a job, obligations. But I was in a bind, and my father knew it. He did what came second nature to him. He stepped in and bought a car for me.

I never asked. I never would have been able to ask. It wasn’t a matter of pride, more a matter of feeling overwhelming failure at being at a point in my life in which I should have had the resources to take care of my problems myself without my father stepping in to save me once again.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings.” ~ Hodding Carter, Jr. 

I have often thought about the parent-child cycle: Exactly when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Do we ever stop being our parents’ children? Do we ever stop looking to them, needing them?

Doubtful. We grow up looking to our parents for love, support, help. If we are lucky—and indeed, not everyone is—We get those things from our parents, and so much more. We get our lessons about caring for those who have less than we do. We see our parents doing the right things day after day, and we want to emulate that. We watch carefully, silently, during those times in which we are caught off guard at the echoes of sadness in their voices, and we feel completely unprepared the first time we see our parents cry.

weeping angel with filterWe vow that we will never be the cause of their pain, and then thoughtlessly, we become the very source of their anguish. We promise to do better, and our promises are filled with that toss-of-the-hat carelessness that we do not recognize until years later.

And then later, if and when we become parents ourselves, we realize exactly how fraught with sorrow and pain the prospect of raising a child can be. We vow to do better than our parents, to listen more, to be more available, to be more patient. But things never really work out that way.

At times, we become careless with our love for our children, and they know it, and they store this little nugget away and vow never to be that way with their own children when they have them.

But if we are very lucky, we also remember to cherish those sweet, sweet moments that come around only once in a while: taking an afternoon nap in the hammock in the spring sun with Alexis, barely moving so as not to disturb her slumber; singing “Unchained Melody” to Eamonn in the middle of the night when he could not sleep because of his stomachaches, sitting in the Bentwood rocker, the two of us completely immersed in each other; sitting in the backyard with Brett, in companionable silence, reading books and enjoying the quiet days of spring.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones
Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones

Corey and I are finding our way back as best we can. It’s a tricky path, filled with branches just waiting to trip us when we least expect it. He worries that when I look at him I see a man who has failed, that I am filled with anger and impatience. I worry that when he looks at me he sees a woman who is past her prime, who no longer has anything to contribute.

Of course, we are both wrong. When I look at Corey, I see the man who has brought great joy to my life, who has gone through hell and back and still stands by my side. I hope that when he looks at me he recognizes the force of the love that I carry in my heart for him, that it is inviolable, immense, and without judgment.

We are finding our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

I am not some starry-eyed hopeless romantic that believes that love conquers all. I am a hopeful romantic who understands that love is but one part, and that if the loving is to be successful, it must be based on mutual respect, trust, and an unrelenting belief in the person who is your partner in this life. We are just beginning this arduous task of working our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

More later. Peace.

 

 

Weathering a Storm is No Guarantee of Calm Seas

rough-seas

Stormy Seas

Why Does It Always Rain on Those Who Are Already Wet With Tears?

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

This afternoon a song from my past came to me from nowhere. I wasn’t listening to the radio or any of my playlists, or even a CD. It just came, but I’m pretty sure that I know why this particular song rose from my subconsious: The title and words are so close to what I am feeling right now.

“Helplessly Hoping” has been interpreted in so many ways, but I have always seen it as a love song about two people who are floundering. There love isn’t floundering, which is made apparent by the refrain, but individually, they are both losing themselves to confusion and circumstances. The words of the refrain symbolize how these two people are better together. As one, they are individuals. As two, they are separate but alone. But when they merge their separate selves, they become another person altogether: three. And always, they are “for each other.”

I find myself in a very perculiar position. A someone who has long suffered from severe depression, bordering on bipolar disorder, I have always been the one that has needed support and understanding from my partners. I have never had a more supportive or understanding partner when it comes to my mental health than Corey.

But now, I am watching someone I love more than life itself being consumed by self-doubt, depression, and guilt. And I finally realize just how helpless it feels to be in this position, how much you want to fix things but cannot. How much you want to take on the pain of your loved one, but how impossible that task truly is.

I can listen when he wants to talk. I can try to remind him of how talented he is, how much training and education he has acquired on his own to become better in his field. I can tell him that being unemployed is not something that he should feel guilty about, that taking a dead-end job for slightly over minimum wage wouldn’t give him benefits, nor would it pay as much as the unemployment for which he qualifies.

That’s a point that many people don’t understand. They say things like, “why don’t you just take any job for the time being?” never stopping to think about the realities of doing something like that. I’ve been in a dead-end job just to get by, and believe me, it does nothing for your self-esteem or your mental health. If anything, it only makes the problem worse.

Corey has always had his spells, his times in which he turns inward for a little while, and I have learned, or attempted to remember, that pushing him does nothing to help. Instead, it is better to let him work through these times, and he always has. But this time is different.

With each passing day, I am watching him feel as if he is less of a person, and this infuriates me. Mostly because my husband is one of the most caring, honorable, and hard-working individuals I have ever known. When he joined our family, he gave all of us a renewed sense of hope. He gave so much of himself to me and to my children, never doubting that we were working to come together as a family. He has been there countless times for Alexis when her father dropped out of her life. He has taught my sons about honor and respect and love just by being the man that he is.

How could you possibly want more of someone?

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

We never ever dreamed that his unemployment would drag on so long. He has written, sent resumes and applications, and made so many telephone calls that we have lost count. We thought that the course that he took last year would be enough to make the difference, but it wasn’t. We thought that this AB course would help to make the difference, but now our plans have been derailed once again.

I no longer feel as if I am surfing on quicksand. I now feel as if I am treading in quicksand. The safety of the board on the surface has disappeared. I try not to sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself, and the reality is that self-pity isn’t what I am really feeling. The emotions are more a combination of hopelessness, anger, and guilt in my abilities to make things better for this family.

I cannot help but think that if I had never been put out on disability, things would be different. I still wonder if I shouldn’t try to go back to work, although considering my health background, I don’t know who would take a chance on me.

There are too many unanswered questions. Life has become like a maze with nothing but dead ends and no clear paths.  And so for today, I find solace in an old song. Tomorrow? Who knows?

If suffering and adversity make a person stronger, then by the time all of this is over, we should be like superheroes. That, or we will be like flowers deprived too long of the sun: withering and unable to withstand much more.

Peace

 

“Helplessly Hoping”
by Stephen Stills

Helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses of gentle true spirit
He runs, wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of goodbye

Wordlessly watching, he waits by the window
And wonders at the empty place inside
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams
He worries, did he hear a goodbye
Or even hello

{Refrain}
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

Stanby the stairway, you’ll see something
Certain to tell you confusion has its cost
Love isn’t lying, it’s loose in a lady
Who lingers, saying she is lost
And choking on hello

{Refrain}
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other