Comforting Words: 12/2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blue Christmas

I have heard the term “Blue Christmas,” and had a conceptual understanding of its meaning – until this year.

Since childhood, no matter the hardship my family was facing. Christmas was “the most wonderful time of the year.” There were many years when we could not afford the traditional ham or even had money to purchase gifts for exchange. Yet, there was just something about the season that made the fact that Spam was our substitute for the leg of pork no big deal.

While a student in the former Soviet Union, Christmas was not something officially celebrated but even then those of us from traditional Christian countries found ways to mark the December 25. In tiny dormitory rooms, twenty or so of us would gather to sing Christmas carols and eat a variety of dishes traditional to people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.

Quite by accident a new Christmas tradition was created in my family in 1990. Trying to decide on the menu for the Christmas dinner my now ex and I chose to serve something quite untraditional. Ever since that year, every Christmas there was always something non-traditional, meaning other than ham, chicken or turkey, on our table. One year we had Cornish hens, another year river prawn (janga – in Jamaican). We would go to some length to find a dish unusual to the Caribbean Christmas fare.

This Christmas, I will be serving ‘blue’.

I have joined the ranks of the thousands, possibly millions, of people across the Christian world who Christmas will have a very different colour for them this year.

We are now six days away and most my Christmas ornaments and decorations are still in their boxes. Only through the force of my will did I manage yesterday (December 18) to put up my growing Christmas village. I took no pleasure or joy in doing so and wondered why I bothered.

My daughter loves her traditional Jamaican Christmas fruit cake or pudding and insisted that I baked. Maybe that was her way of trying to gently nudge me into the spirit. Friday evening (December 17) we spent a few hours together baking and since then I have been diligently and liberally ‘soaking’ the puddings with wine and Jamaican rum. I am sure they will be tasty as usual but someone might have to tell me.

The truth is my friends, after much resistance to my psychologist's suggestion that I see a medical doctor regarding the state of my mental health; I finally had to admit that I was in serious trouble.

After spending another sleepless night Thursday (December 7), pacing the apartment, reaching for any resource that would ground me, not wanting to call anyone at 2:00 a.m., I found myself crouched on the floor of my bedroom closet, afraid to come out.

The part of my brain that was still functional insisted that I call someone for help and I did but unfortunately those who I managed to reach at 9:00 a.m. were already at work so I was getting only voice mail. Then there was one dear friend who I managed to get but she was extremely triggered and overcomed by my deteriorating condition that she was herself immobilized.

Finally, on a break my daughter picked up my desperate voice mail message and called. I was still cowered in the closet, as I pleaded to her to get help for me or to come stay with me before I did something stupid. We finally agreed that, being as she was the only family we have in Edmonton and in Canada, she would call her Aunty J, to see if she could drive me to the hospital. In the meantime, my daughter would try to get off work and meet us there.

Well, to cut a long story short, that did not happen. Basically, Aunty J called and the response was that I am doing this to myself and should cut out the drama and stop contacting her as I am going to cause her to lose her job. The good side is she offered to call me a cab but I explained that I am afraid to leave the closet – literally – and could not manage dressing much less sitting in a cab on my own to the clinic or hospital. That was the last I heard of or from her – almost two weeks ago.

Fortunately, one of the dear souls on whose voice mail I had left a plea for help came home later that afternoon and called me. Immediately upon hearing that I was still in the throes of what would later be described as a ‘breakdown’, she rushed over, packed me up and took me to the doctor.

And so, this Christmas along with whatever meal my dear friend M, who entirely at her own expense will travel from Toronto to be with me – not wanting me to be on my own in this condition – I will be popping pills.

The doctors have declared me clinically depressed and I am now on tranquilizers and anti-depressants. The former are habit forming and I am trying my best to control how many I take each day and the later takes three to four weeks to kick in – so I am still struggling with severe panic attacks and suicide thoughts (yes, they are back).

Ever trying to find the positive in any situation, I am grateful for this experience as it gives me a deeper appreciation for the suffering that I see in my world everyday. I work with women who have similar and even worse experiences than I could ever imagine. When I am tempted to feel sorry for myself and the fact that I have basically been abandoned by the one who I thought was my dearest friend – I remember the lives of these women and the strength that they share with me each day.

Along with the circle of women who continue to gather and care for me, these women are the ones that give me hope.

This Christmas Day after picking at whatever M cooks us, I will be heading for work – not officially – to be with women who truly understand how to keep it real, how to be loyal and honest and how to care for each other in times of need.

Maybe it will not be so ‘blue’ after all.

I wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas. I pray that you may never experience anything close to what I have been through and am still enduring but that if you ever do, know that I will be here to share your journey.



Friday, December 01, 2006

Wilderness Journal: Day 40

The End

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 12
Day 15
Day 20
Day 21
Day 29

Contrary to what one woman suggested, writing posts for this Wilderness Journal is not the be all and end all of my existence. Without any difficulty, I have not done so in just about eleven days.

As I have been doing since this Wilderness Journey began on October 23, this morning, like the thirty nine before it, started at the Center of the Eternal Fire. A blue candle shared its flame – blue being the colour of Truth, Peace, Protection, Hope, Honour, Change and Intuition.


Self- Awareness: Locating Oneself

“Where are you today?”

Truth, Peace, Protection, Hope, Honour, Change and Intuition are in fact what I have been seeking since my life, as I knew it for 16 years now, began to unravel on October 8.

This journey, this quest has been about coming to a place of peace with the changes that are now daily occurrences in my life. The past forty days have been about learning how to honour my feelings, my emotions and who I am at my core.

The last few days have been about sitting with the truth that I was finally hearing, a truth that my intuition – something else that I need to learn to not only respect but hold as sacred – had been signalling to me since July of this year.

Day 40 found me earnestly praying for protection – as I try to fully embrace and embark on this new leg of my life’s journey – and for the Goddess of Hope to constantly be with me.

I ended the post of Day 29 saying that the book “Radical Forgiveness” would be my guide to this day. However, as is always the case, life had something else in store for me and I was open to it.

Now on Day 40, I find myself holding tightly onto the words of Iyanla Vanzant – a down to earth, African-American writer, minister and motivational speaker – from her book, “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up,” and to the work of my favourite female televangelist, Joyce Meyer, “Straight Talk on Fear.”

These two women, like the numerous other women who have literally in some cases held me up over the last forty days, helped to ease me from a place of utter and, quite frankly, murderous anger and outrage to a slowly deepening calm and surrender.

The Last Ten Days

Day 28 into Day 29 was one of the most heartbreaking time for me since October 8. It was the day my daughter shared her own shock and outrage at not only seeing her Aunty J on the bus with her new companion but that she was virtually ignored by her ‘second mother’ of sixteen years.

The next few days were, as the Hollywood celebrities love to say, surreal.

I was like a zombie, a body that had lost almost twenty pounds in twenty days and struggling to keep its soul encased.

Day 30 found me in bed crying for God to take away the pain; crying for my ancestors who had come to me during the Family Constellation Workshop I attended a few days earlier. Often I have repeated the words an Aboriginal Elder told me back in 2005 – “the longest distance is the journey between your head and your heart.”

On this day, I had no desire to take the journey. My desire was to stay in my head and figure things out – figure out how was I to get through this pain and agony; how do I get over the outrage I was feeling on my child’s behalf.

One of the many tools that I use in my professional life turned out to be quite useful for me on Day 31. I used this instrument to analyze the pros and cons of (1) Continuing to strive for a dysfunctional relationship and what seemed like a complete breakdown in the friendship or (2) Accepting the end of the relationship and obvious loss of the friendship.

What was even more interesting was that I was doing this analysis on the day that would have been our official 16th Anniversary (November 22).

It was also on this day, as I sat in a training session, that I had what can only be described as a vision – of what a friend calls “a fate escaped.” My mind drifted as the presenter spoke and I went back in time to the evening in September when I witnessed the blatant evidence of the affair in my living room. It was as if God was showing me why it was right that I had not followed my anger that evening – as in the vision I was being escorted away by police officers.

Day 32 began as usual at 3:30 a.m. with me in prayer, asking to find the balance between my head and my heart. By the end of the day, I was holding in my hands Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book “10 Secrets for Success & Inner Peace.” It was propped up on my colleague’s desk and she without hesitation loan it to me – knowing the struggles that I was going through.

That night, I copied the following quote and posted it on my bedroom wall:

“I’ve been [lied to and betrayed] but I am willing to say without guilt and resentment that I own it. I live with it and I am responsible for having it in my life. Why do this? If [I] take responsibility for having it, then at least [I]have the chance to also take responsibility for removing it or learning from it.”

Dreams filled my short sleep that night and the morning of Day 33 (Friday) was spent checking every dream book I could lay my hands on. Some of the symbols have been recurring and they had me especially curious. As I pieced the meanings of the dreams together with the guidance from Wayne Dyer’s book, I decided on four (4) of the Secrets to Inner Peace that he outlined that would take me through the next seven days:

  1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.

  2. Do not die with the music still in you.

  3. You cannot give away what you do not have.

  4. Avoid thoughts that weaken you.

Day 34 was very interesting. My sense of and loyalty to the friendship with my ex overpowered me to the point that I called her to share information that was coming to light that could have very negative implications for her. My conscience would not allow me to know that she is in danger of any kind and not tell her – no matter what – and that is what I did. We had a pleasant enough conversation and for a brief while, I went squarely back to my heart and if her words are anything to go by – so did she at least somewhat.

My head, however, strongly beckoned and with the help of a friend on Day 35 (Sunday) I completely re-decorated the apartment, making it my space. If I may say so myself – it looks darn good.

And what a good thing that was – going back to my head – as on Day 36 the illusion of a possible retrieval of the friendship was completely shattered. This was the day that I was finally told the truth – after asking once again in a telephone conversation, six weeks after the initial declaration that that the relationship was over.

I was seeking clarity about a proposed meeting and responding to my questions, I was finally told that there is in fact “an involvement,” with this woman and that it started, just as I had sensed and as the telephone records revealed, back in the summer.

All possibilities of meeting and even a friendship went through the window for me, however, not with finally hearing an acknowledgement of the truth but with the continuing failure to take personal responsibility, when the insult of insults came – one that disparaged our 16 years together and my humanity.
By the end of Day 36, I was far more adamant, even demanding, that a suggestion that I had made a week or so earlier – that every effort be made to severe the financial ties between us – be immediately activated.

By Day 37 I was on fire. Anger was consuming me and I needed help. I was breathing and spitting anger, fit to be tied as the memory of the lies and the various occasions that I witnessed this affair in my house played over and over in my head. I knew I was in trouble and that my anger was now manifesting in my life when my car would not start. Yes, it was 40 degrees below zero but I had taken all the precautions to ensure that the car was warm, etc. so why would it not start – damn it!

The car was dead – just like a few other things in my life – and this was confirmed on Day 38. There is no accident and the death of my only means of transportation to the job that I could not afford, literally, not to be at was no accident.
This was the message from the Universe to me to ‘cool it’. I automatically opened the Vanzant book mentioned earlier at this prayer:
I lift my hands to Thee.
I acknowledge Divine Presence and Divine Power as the only active force in my life.
I SURRENDER any attachment to outer appearances.
I SURRENDER the toxic emotions of my physical mind to the pure essence of Spirit.
I SURRENDER anger. I SURRENDER resentment.
I SURRENDER control.
I SURRENDER to the Power and Presence that is Divine Will in active motion.
I SURRENDER, knowing Divine Mercy and Divine Grace always work together for my good.
For this I am so grateful.
And So It Is!

It was now Day 39 and my car still had not yet been towed to the garage and I was still driving a rental that I could ill-afford to be using. The fact that I got only three hours sleep was not helping my anxiety level. For the first time in a few weeks I was on the verge of a panic attack as I did not know what to do. Without a car, I could not get to work – and as I am not a salaried employee and a part time one at that, if I am not at work then there is no pay.

However, by the time I got home from work in my rented Chrysler (what an awfully big car!) my vehicle had been towed. No sooner than I could say “Thank you God,” about that the phone rang and it was the garage, telling me that it would cost me far more than I had to repair my vehicle and there was no guarantee how long it would last!

I lost it. I had not a clue what to do next.

Truth is I had foreseen this happening back in August and said to my then partner that maybe we should really change the vehicle before the winter started. She disagreed.

Why did I not follow my intuition? Why did I not trust what my gut was telling me? Instead I listened to a rationale that now had me stranded, with very little options to get to work and thereby keep a roof over my head.

By now I was in a panic attack and started calling my support network to help me keep grounded. One woman, the one that I have mentioned before as going through a similar situation and who tried to kill herself three times – in fact she is the fourth person in this affair that played out in my living room – suggested that I check out leasing a new car.

“I can’t afford that,” was my protest.

“Claudette, just check it out – what do you have to lose?” she countered.

Agreeing that there was very little I could lose by asking, I made the call and the process of credit checking, etc. began at 6:00 p.m. (Day 39) with the promise that I would get a final word by 10:00 a.m. on Day 40.

Each morning as I wake up and thank God for the breath of life for one more day, I check in with myself, asking: “What am I feeling and what are my desires for today?” My last question is usually, “Am I open to God’s Will today?”

Day 40 was no different and these were my responses:

  • I can finally accept that there is not and has not been a friendship between us for some time now. So my desire is to let go of that notion.
  • The overall pain has lessened, replaced by some measure of anger but more so by a growing insistence that “You can do this Claudette – you did it at 18 when you went to Russia on your own – you can do it now!”
  • Yes - I have no choice but to be open to God's will -- my will has brought only pain and that of others have not been any different. I had had enough, truly, of the confusion and suffering, it was time to totally surrender to Divine Will.

Acknowledging these two issues – acceptance that there is no friendship and that I have not lost my own power with the end of both the relationship and friendship – was extremely freeing today – Day 40 – the last day of being in the Wilderness!

Standing Tall

I am 5’ 9” tall and one fine looking woman!
Thanks to the drama of the last couple months (almost) I have lost quite a bit of weight and I am sizzling (ha-ha).

Ever so often I look in the mirror and say “Damn, you are fine!” I do not do this because I am egotistical, far from it. I do it to remind myself what I have forgotten, what I have suppressed, what I have not heard at home and longed to hear and what I have ignored about myself – not just in the last two months but for many years now.

The last couple months took me to a very dark place – a place that I have no intention of rushing back to visit. The same woman who thought this blog is the be all and end all of my life, also told me that I am pretending that I am okay. My response to her was that if okay is spending $150 (thanks to the first anonymous donation and a second that I received recently) each week on psychotherapy then I am dandy!

This experience was extremely painful – one that I would never wish on an enemy. It was an experience that could have been more humane had truth and integrity to self and others been practiced.

But that is water under the bridge now and as the quote from Dr. Dyer’s book noted: as I take responsibility for entertaining, both within myself, in others and in my personal space, the propensity to lie, the love of secrets, the absence of truth and integrity in the first place, then at least I have the chance to also take responsibility for removing it or learning from it.

I caught myself recently singing the song, “I Will Survive,” and laughed out loud. When I pick up my new car on Monday – knowing that I can get to work, keep a roof over my head, keep myself supplied with my medication and purchase the much reduced quantities of food that I now eat – I will be reciting these poignant words from Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

You may shoot me with your words.
You may cut me with your eyes.
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide.
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave.
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Thanks to all who supported me, with your love expressed kindly or unkindly, with a listening ear or by ensuring that I had something to eat, with the purchase of a new winter coat or simply a shoulder to cry on when I needed one most.
I truly love you all and I am truly grateful.