My Story, Part 2

Continuing my story forces me to discuss a topic that I have kept close to my heart, both out of fear of what others would think of me, as well as shame and regret. At the same time, I’ve always felt a calling to tell my story for others who find themselves in the same circumstance. Just a way to let them know that they are not alone and that the situation may not be as dire as it seems. 

The past  months have led me to reconsider and in some ways, let go of some of my old negative ways of thinking. It occurred to me that I’d long ago come to terms with the shame and regret, and for reasons that I will discuss later, they no longer exist.  Moreover, I’ve almost outgrown any fear of what others may think of me. The people who know and love me will be there as always and anyone who isn’t, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Anyway, it is time. Time to let go. With this letting go, it is my hope that someone, somewhere out there will read it and from it, understand that with hard work and determination, a seemingly dire event, can have positive results. No matter how huge the mistake may seem, we have control over the direction our lives take.

By the time that I graduated high school, I had three scholarships in hand; the most generous at a college in Lafayette. Great, I thought, here’s my ticket to freedom.  I’d been waiting to leave home since the day that I was born. I graduated high school and began what was supposed to be my final summer before college.  Instead, it turned out to  be the summer that I made a decision that changed the course of my entire life–I became pregnant at 17 1/2 years of age.  I was the oldest; the one to set an example for my younger brother and sisters. I was terrified and my Mom, not one to express her feelings, was undoubtedly devastated.

Did you know that “[t]he United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The Center for Disease control says that one-third of girls get pregnant before the age of 20., a site managed by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, states that there are “750,000 teen pregnancies annually. Eight in ten of these pregnancies are unintended and 81 percent are to unmarried teens.”  I was one of those girls.
Thinking that I had no other choice, soon after, I was in an ill-advised, destined to fail, marriage. Since I was not even 18, my mother, who did not support the marriage, had to sign for the marriage license!  After decades of self-inquiry, I’ve come to realize that my actions were borne of fear of leaving home and fear of the unknown. I was torn in half; I desperately wanted to leave home and to “be free,” but I had not been prepared for the outside world and my fear overtook my reason.  As a result, I choose a different, and difficult road. The marriage did not bring me freedom; it merely introduced me to another form of dependency.  

I was a very young mother, with 3 children by the age of 21.  I always believed that some way and some how, I would graduate college.  I refused to be one of those teenaged mothers that others looked upon as having ruined her life by getting pergnant. I tried attending college but with children, a job and a lack of significant support at home, it was difficult. Since we had no car, I remember spending countless hours on the bus lugging my happy, but chubby young son, from our tiny, postage-stamped sized apartment, to his baby-sitter, then to school and work, only to reverse the route at the end of any already long, exhausting day.  I can remember one occasion where I had to take my son to class with me, where he was the center of attention. Finally, however, I could not  manage it all and I had to forego my education. Between 1976 and 1981, I made 3 failed attempts to pursue my college degree but the stresses of caring for a family, working and going to school were too great and I was forced to stop each time. 

Five years passed and by this time, I had wheedled my way into the oil and gas exploration business.  First, I worked for Shell Oil Company and then Tomlinson Offshore. Even though I had no college degree, I was a assistant geophysicist, and later an assistant geologist.  Unfortunately, the oil and gas bust came and hit New Orleans and I was laid off.  There were no similar jobs to be had throughout the city.  By this time, I’d grown up and my marriage was over.  I had children to care for and I made a decision that I thought that I would never make–I moved to Texas, a place that I  thought was, the land of cowboys and no trees.  I was heartbroken to leave my home, but a part of me was looking forward to the unknown. To be continued. . . 

Quote Tuesday

I suppose that “quote” is really inappropriate for today’s post.  In actuality, it is a passage from “The Pocket Pema Chödrön,” which contains excerpts from the various books that Pema  Chödrön has written.  This particular passage is titled “How to Defeat Fear,” and it struck a chord with me, largely because fear has been a constant companion since childhood.  It bears noting that fear is a useful and necessary emotion that, among other things, protects us.  Without fear, in the face of clear and present danger, our innate ‘fight or flight’ response would not be triggered and we would fall prey to any number of dangers.  This is not the type of fear referred to in this passage. 

The passage refers to those fears that prevent us from taking risks in our lives and from living life to its fullest.  These fears cause us to act against our own self-interest, and as a result, if not defeated, deprive us of reaching, or even knowing, our full potential.  Fear is risk adverse, and commands that we wait until the time is right, which in most cases, never comes.  From personal experience, I know that fear has, and in some cases, still does, control my actions.  On the other hand, there are countless obstacles that I’ve faced and overcome, in spite of fear’s taunt that “I’d fail.”  I believe that defeating all my fears will be a lifetime endeavor and that this passage provides me some insight into achieving that goal.  Perhaps, it will help you too.

Blessings, lydia 

How to Defeat Fear

Once there was a young warrior.  Her teacher told her that she had to do her battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.  But the teacher said she had to do it and she gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived.  The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other.  The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful.  They both had their weapons.  The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”  Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”  Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face.  Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say.  If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power.  You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me.  You can even be convinced by me.  But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”  In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat her fear. ~“The Pocket Pema Chödrön,”  Shambhala Publications

Guidance from Papa Smurf?

Papa SmurfImage by dan taylor via Flickr
Not so long ago,  my g’daughter, Punkin (obviously not her real name but she likes me to call her that), and I had a sleepover at my house.  During the course of the sleepover, I realized that at my age, my idea of a sleepover involves some actual sleep, but Punkin’s, at 4 1/2 years of age, was not.  She was interested in, among other things, Candy Land or the Smurfs, and sleep was not a consideration.  As it is with g’parents and their g’children, the victor was obvious.  Considering the two and finding that watching a DVD involved no thought or movement on my part, the choice was clear.  Gratefully, Punkin had mercy on me and agreed.

So, there we were, draped across the bed, with Punkin watching the Smurfs as I watched her watching them.  My attention on the DVD was sporadic so I am not sure why I happened to pay attention to this one particular episode. In it, Papa Smurf, the elder spokesmen of the little blue people, was giving encouragement to two of his misguided charges who had caused some type of trouble.  His final words to them as he sent them on their way to save the day was “do not be afraid, to be afraid.” That’s it, that simple little missive got me thinking.

Well, in all honesty, my initial reaction was to laugh out loud at the absurdity of a little blue cartoon character uttering anything that might give me pause. After setting that little prejudice aside, I set about considering the words– “do not be afraid to be afraid.” Such a simple, albeit powerful, phrase. The word “afraid” is defined as “feeling fear; filled with apprehension.; whereas “fear” is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. Thus, feeling “afraid” breeds “fear.”

The saying “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” is another phrase that addresses fear and is as true now as it was in the depression era when Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered it. There is nothing to fear but our avoidance of it, running away from it and failing to confront it. How often do we truly face our fears? How often do we welcome them with open arms?  If you are like me, not very often. Not only do we try to turn away from them, but we berate ourselves for even having them. Often, we are told that such feelings are bad, and a sign of weakness that should be avoided at all costs.  So we ignore our fears, and they grow into, in some cases, crippling impediments. What can we do?

First, we must not forget that fear can be a useful emotion that protects and guides us on our journey.  Instead of viewing our fears as interlopers, why not embrace them, make an effort to understand them by seeking their origin, and listen for any message that they may be trying to convey to us.  Doing so, I learned that most of my fears arise when I am either ruminating about something that occurred in the past or catastrophizing about the future–very rarely is there any present threat.  In some cases, the very act of confronting our fears can neutralize them.  Nevertheless, I am not implying that this is an easy task or that your fears will vanish over night.  I am the first to say that all the embracing and confronting in the world will not neutralize some fears.  For instance, I am afraid of snakes–always have been and in all likelihood, always will be. Just thinking about them increases my heart rate and gives me a tummy ache. But still, Papa Smurf is right, do not be afraid, to be afraid.

All in all, I learned a lesson that night:  Wisdom can come to us from the most unlikely places–including Smurf Village.
Enhanced by Zemanta

An Anniversary

Cake, short a few candlesImage by nutmeg66 via Flickr
Today is an anniversary of sorts. It’s not a wedding anniversary or one that brings back happy memories. No, it is one that I never saw coming, never even imagined, but thanks to God, I live to tell.  So I suppose that I tell you this memory, not wistfully, but with zeal and gratitude that one year later, I write this post. 

First, I know, like everyone else, that my days are numbered and that we are promised nothing beyond this moment.  Nevertheless,  on June 2, 2010, when two pulmonary emboli forced me to confront my mortality, I was ill-prepared.

In hindsight, it seems so silly of me but at the time, I thought that I had nothing more than bronchitis, or at worse, pneumonia. I was having difficulty breathing and when I called my doctor’s office, I learned that he was out of the office for two weeks. His nurse told me that if the symptoms worsened, I should go to the nearest emergency room. I didn’t and choose to wait for my doctor’s return. On the morning that he returned,  I called his office. I requested an appointment. Upon hearing my symptoms, he refused me an office visit, and told me to go to the nearest emergency room.  I thought that was overkill and insisted on an office visit. He told me that if I came into the office, he would send me directly to the emergency room.  I relented and went to the nearest E.R., where initially they clearly seemed doubtful that there was anything that warranted an er. visit. They repeatedly asked me, “Who told you to come here?,” and each time I replied, “My doctor.” I did not want to be there anyway and certainly did not want to be viewed as someone who runs to the emergency room needlessly, so my doctor was taking the blame.

At first, the standard examination, x-ray and such indicated no serious problem and the doctor appeared ready to herd me out the door. I figured that I’d get a script for a ventilator and go home. Well, the first sign that something was wrong was seen in my blood work. The doctor who before had to make an effort to appear remotely interested, became overly interested. He came in to tell me that there was a problem in my blood work and they needed a CT scan. About 15-20 minutes passed between the scan and the doctor’s return to my room.  Instead of standing up, he sat down and I said, “I guess it’s the lawyer in me, but if there was nothing wrong, you would have said what you had to say and left.  Since you sat down, I assume that you have bad news.”  He gave a little smile and mentioned that his back hurt, but said, “Yes, I have some bad news.”

In brief, my blood was “sticky” and prone to clot, more so than is normal. These clots travel through the body, and end up in the brain causing sudden death. Mine were found in my lungs before they travelled to my brain. The doctor said, “you could have died at any moment before these clots were discovered.” The dam broke and the water works sprang forth.

All that I could think about was my loves: my mother who has already lost one child and didn’t deserve to lose another; my children, each so special in their own way and whom I love with all my heart ((I cannot overlook the two best son-in-laws in the world. I could not have chosen better men for each of my daughters. They mean the world to me and our family.); my g’children, especially Daisy who is the one that, because of geography, I know best. I’ve watched her grow from an infant to the independent thinker that she was even at 4 1/2 years old; my husband, who after years of challenges that would have broken up many marriages, we are intact and have decades to grow and love–together; my sisters who even though I am not close to, I love with all my heart and wish them nothing but good health, joy and happiness; my family who as the years go by is ever more important to  me as a connection to who I am and where I am from; and finally, my friends, some of whom closer than family.

After that conversation with the E.R. doctor, things happened quickly.  I was given the first of many injections of Lovenox, a blood thinner. I was prepared to be transferred via ambulance, to a highly skilled facility in Austin and within 30 minutes I found myself on a surreal journey. Cars pulled over to the shoulder to allow us passage, something that I’ve done countless times in the past without giving much thought to the passenger in the ambulance.

In all candor, I was terrified, because this was the closest that I’d come to death. Granted, fibromyalgia was so debilitating that it forced me to stop practicing law, but fibromyalgia by it self doesn’t kill.  There are many times that my pain is so great that I think that I am near  death, but I live by the belief that, this too shall pass, and each time it does.

My memory is cloudy at this point, but I remember feeling overwhelmed and anxious because people were descending upon me from all sides. I was being poked and prodded, asked a million questions, while copious amounts of blood was being drawn from my body.  What compounded my fear was the unknown. I did not know what happened, why, and whether it would happen again.

Hours later, I met my doctor for the first time.  He walked, sat down and reassured me that I was fortunate. His words were, “It is not common that I’d be sitting here talking to someone with your diagnosis, because the clots are not discovered in time and they die.” Now, if his intent was to allay my fears, it didn’t.  However, he did explain to me what happened and the plan for treatment.  He also ordered tests to determine whether the clots originated from my legs or my heart.  Both were negative.  As of this date, and with one round of genetic testing behind me, no one knows what caused my pulmonary emboli. 

For months after the diagnosis, I was so terrified that I would not wake the following morning, that I couldn’t breathe, which did nothing but feed my fears.  When I did sleep, I had terrible nightmares. It was probably three months before I could sleep through the night and longer still until I let go of my persistent worries about a return of the emboli. At this point, my choices are (1) to stop the blood thinners and watch and wait to see if the blood clots return, or (2) to continue the blood thinners and accept the risks posed by them. They are blood thinners and as such, a minor injury, could very easily turn into a serious problem and warrant an emergency room visit.  

The deciding factor for me is the unknown. I can speak only for myself, but stopping the blood thinner and ‘watching and waiting’ is not for me.  It is certain to negatively affect my emotional and mental health. At least for now, weighing the options, I chose option 2.  Sure it requires frequent blood tests, but then, it allows me to sleep at night, relatively sure that I won’t have a repeat of last year. 

Thanks for listening.

Blessings, lydia  
Enhanced by Zemanta