24 June 2012

Giving and Regrets.

This post is going to sound snarky to some, and pathetic to others.  Some may understand where I'm coming from, and others may think I'm way off base.  None the less, this is a post a long time coming, and its one that I've thought about for a while.  It's not easy, so hang in there with me ok?

When I turned 35 I looked at my life.  I have a wonderful husband and a fantastic marriage.  And yes, it IS enough. My life isn't what I thought it would be at 35. It's not. I imagined having kids by now, having mom watch those kids during the day (thus imparting all of her wisdom on them) and me having a good job and being healthy and so on....

None of that is possible for a number of reasons. Mom is gone now, I'm not really healthy enough for kids, (not that it matters we don't have health insurance), my job pays crap, and I'm sitting on a Master's Degree that no one gives a care about (though it IS a critical needs area). 

I look back and I see my life was wasted in a number of ways.  I wasted eleven years of my life as a firefighter. Wasted. Eleven years. Sure I had a lot of great adventures, and the stories will go on for a lifetime, but those were childbearing years, those were career building years I will never get back. Never. Gone, as in with the wind. There were a handful of guys that treated me as an equal, and some that did better than just tolerate me. For those men, I am grateful. I truly am. There were some that spoke down to me, left me out to dry, pushed me, cursed me, and treated me like trash. Some just didn't like me because I'm weird. Others didn't like me because I'm smart. And others, and these were the ones that left me feeling like I wasted so much time, didn't like me because I'm a woman. I got over it. Mostly. But I haven't gotten over where being a good human being, and where literally risking my life for strangers has left me.

I lost my job as a firefighter because of Meniere's, but this was after threats of getting fired if my new husband and I decided to have a baby. So we put off the family thing until I could finish my Master's Degree in Special Education and get a job with the schools.  Oh they were, (and I stress were) crying for special education teachers. Then I lost my job, and then I graduated. Then suddenly the job market in South Carolina dried up for teachers of all kinds. And being a firefighter was now a liability.  It had always been sort of the white elephant in the room for me.  It separated me from society because people believed that a woman in the fire station could only one of two things: a whore or a lesbian.  For the record, I was, and am, neither. I was in it to help people. I really wanted to do something for the world, for my nation and my community. What better way than to be a firefighter, right? Not so much.  I might have been socially separated by preconceived notions that the uneducated or ignorant had, but I didn't feel as if there was a huge black mark on my life.

I do now.

Interview after interview it comes up.  And not in the "oh I see you were a firefighter" kinda way.  Its a tone, its a change in the interviewers posture when its asked about. Its as if it means something is wrong or defective with my character. It's the unspoken that speaks volumes. No one asks why I did it, no one digs into the life I lead as a firefighter, but there are questions around the edges that ask those very things. Now some folks have told me I'm going to hell for "doing a mans job", but I don't believe that. Some folks believe that I was wrong to have lived my life so close to death for so long, and maybe there is something to that, but I'm not going to hell for helping people. I don't believe it works that way. If anyone is going to hell its the ones that made it a point to set me up to fail or to get hurt. And it happened WAY too much. But that's another blog for another day....

The elephant in the room has successfully crapped on me. A big giant elephant sized poop on my resume. Eleven years worth to be exact. The verbal abuse and the anticipation of being set up to fail left me with a number of complexes to work through. When you are told for the last three years of a career you don't belong, you are stupid, you are lazy and you are only there to fill a quota, it gets to you. Especially when you know deep down it isn't true.

I worked harder than my counterparts, I worked smarter too! No matter what I did, for some it just wasn't enough.   I left the fire service a broken woman in a number of ways. My spirit was crushed, my soul was battered, and my body was breaking down from the physical and mental stress that I had endured.  I still fight a battle every day with how I feel.  I have nightmares about the things people used to say to me. And I still duck when a man raises his voice in my presence.  Now my time doing what I felt was right has become something of a stumbling block for me.

Do I regret helping others?  Nope. Do I regret the eleven years I spent as a firefighter?  Yes and no.  I would do it all again if that was the only way I'd meet my wonderful husband. I would endure even more if that is what it would take. But I regret never having the courage to do anything about the abuse I endured. It takes a brave soul to run into a burning building, but it takes even more to stand up to someone who shames you for being yourself. I regret, and I think I might always regret, never having had the courage to stand up for myself.

So there it is. There are so few views on my blog, I doubt anyone reads this. But for those that do, know that even though I left a broken soul I'd to it all again to save one life. And that includes you.

Don't worry about me, my soul will heal, my dreams will change, and my life is good. Its not where I thought it would be, but like I said, I'd walk through hell all over again and barefoot just to have my dear husband.

16 June 2012

A Day Without Mom is Like a Day Without Sunshine, Now Its Been a Year.

As children, we believe, for the most part anyway, that death can not touch us or those we love. When we lose people when we are young, we realize they are gone but somehow our little kiddo minds heal and our hearts mend.  When we are adults, we rationalize, we feel guilt, and we grieve in ways our child-minds could not. I've lost people before, but the grief was not like this. When I lost my sister, I had made peace before hand and somehow that made the process easier for me. I missed her terribly (and still do), but was not consumed by grief like my mother was. When I lost my grandmother, I was so sad. I wished I had spent more time with her, but I knew she was free from the prison the final strokes had locked her in.  I could not be sad for that freedom. I've lost others, don't get me wrong, I have lost friends and family in my adult life. I have lost many that I have cared about. Some how losing momma was just, different.  I'd lost my mom, my mentor and my friend.

Looking back at the last days, I can only think of the time we spent watching her sleep. Watching her breath, and wondering if each breath was her last. They told us at hospice many of the patients have a "second wind" and sit up and talk and chat when they haven't for days.  Mom did.  I believe the last person she spoke to, before she slipped away into the dark, dark coma before the Light, was me. She said "well hey Shelly".  I spent my 34th birthday at hospice with momma before she started to be asleep more than awake.  She and I had cupcakes from that shop over in Taylors. I think that was about the last thing she ate too.

Mom gave me one last gift the night she died.  We had been at hospice all day and into the wee hours of the morning.  I could not stand another moment awake, and I told my Dad I had to go home to go to bed. With the Meniere's being aggravated by stress, I didn't want to have an attack, and I felt close to one. Dad and my sister shooed me away, telling me they thought it would be much later in to the next day before the end came. So Don and I reluctantly headed back to Greenville. I climbed into bed a bit after 1:30am, and fell asleep at once. At about 3:20am we got the call that momma was gone. I told Don she was hanging on just until she knew I was out of the room, because she knew I couldn't handle being there at the last second. I realized she had passed exactly one year, almost to the minute, that my battle with Meniere's began.

People must have thought I was crazy at how strong I was for the funeral.  I gave the eulogy. I barely cried, it seemed.  Sometimes I think the heartbreaks so hard the tears fall later. I spent the next three months swimming in a pool of depression.  I cried, no I sobbed every night for months. I look at things, think of momma, and cry again. I went to grief counseling. I fought anger, I still fight anger.  I stand back in awe at the world that continued to go on without mom.

It will be a year on June 17th. A year without mom.  A year I have missed phone calls to ask questions, a year she hasn't seen me learn to quilt, a year she hasn't been there for me to hug. Its been a year without that sunshine. I'm ready to let the grief move on, like a fog drifting away in the morning to let the sunshine back into my life. I'm ready, I know momma would be ready for me too.
Mom, before the "C" monster took her away.

10 June 2012

Trying To Look On The Bright Side

Its hard sometimes when you look at your life and realize its not where you thought it should be by now. Its really hard when you work hard, follow the directions to the "American Dream" and get sidelined by something you never heard coming. Its tough when you watch everyone else reach those goals and you are still trying to figure out what you are going to do next in survival mode.

Survival mode is a place I never wanted to be. I wanted to be in the enjoyment mode, or at least in the building mode. For now that's just not possible. I've never been the envious type. I haven't been. I've always been pretty happy with what I have and have wanted, but never to this degree. We think its a part of how I've been grieving. We think its how my mind is trying to focus on something else besides shattered dreams and waylaid plans. I fight this every day. I fight hard.  Some days I win, other days I seep back into the cesspool of the envy ridden survival mode and glare out at the passers by.

The story I dreamt of went something like this:  A lovely maiden, a Knight in the Miliken Forest was swept off her feet by the man of her dreams. She left the stables and the Knights to work in the halls of learning while she and her husband built their families. They lived happily ever after....

The story took a turn....  The lovely maiden, almost broken in spirit from the years of verbal abuse endured as the only woman Knight in the Forest, met a wonderful man, whom she married.  They began to make great plans, when her husband's father fell ill, and passed into the great beyond. The newlyweds struggled to cope, when the husband lost his job.  Though his job loss was short lived, and the Lady was no longer treated so poorly with her new Captain of the Guards, her dreams of starting a family were being dashed by the Chief Guard and his ignorance. Standing once again on her feet, The Lady was not expecting the blow of the loss of her career. In the night, a new foe, the Evil Vertigo stole away with her balance, her job, and some of her heart. As her body learned to cope with the poor balance and decreasing hearing, her heart tried to mend from the loss of a job she had fought hard to get. Then her own dear mother fell ill. Her new job was a nightmare, and her mother grew sicker with each passing day. Suddenly, she was again without a job as the assignment ended, and The Lady sat in the Hospice House watching her mother fade. Then, just as the father of her husband had passed a year before, her own dear mother entered the great beyond. The Lady was devastated. Many unfortunate things danced around her broken heart. All the while, she held on through her illness, through the understanding that one day she would no longer be able to hear, through the times when others lives went so well.  Dreams of a family have been pushed aside as she and her dear husband try to again pick up pieces left by the devastating events. It takes a long time to put it all back together, and no one can be sure it is done correctly. They cling to each other in the hopes that they will have the happily ever after they dreamed of. But the story just started, so there is no telling where it will go from here....

Ok, its a little silly. Really. Sometimes it feels like that. I try to take into account the struggles we have now are only stepping stones, but its not easy. I battle grief and envy every day.  Both are new foes, and I believe they, at least in my case, rode into town together. So the rest of my post is going to be dedicated to the things I AM thankful for. 

My wonderful Husband!!!
Church (even if I don't go as I should)
My strong marriage
My Family (even if some of them drive me nuts)
My friends
My two crazy kitties
My job (even when its really hard)
My health (even when its not as good as I'd like it to be)
My car (long may the Blue Kahuna run)
My ability to make things like momma had
My hearing (whats left of it)
My ability to write
My love of all things nerdy
My love of history
My stuff  (lol)
The experiences that have made me who I am
The house we rent
The food we eat
The clothes we wear
The things we use every day
My intelligence

Ok, so there are LOTS of blessings, and I'm sure I left a bunch out. I'm trying to look to these things rather than look at what others have and feel slighted. I'm trying to climb out of that cesspool of survival and into the plains of contentment. I'm working hard at this. I hope as the grief fades, so will this feeling that Ive been cheated.  Because logically, I haven't been. Its all in my head. Really.