Posted in Mental Health, prayer, Recovery

How God Talks

I’ve often wished that God would just text me.

Hey, girl, turn around and say something to that silent person you just passed. She needs a smile. And while you’re at it, tell her she has beautiful hands, because that will make her think of playing her piano, and she’s been missing her music without realizing it. Oh, and by the way, I’ve lined up your next motorcycle for you—you’ll find out about it when you talk to Carrie during book-study. You’re welcome. Love, God

Wouldn’t that be convenient? None of this praying-for-guidance or listening for subtle answers. I’m a literal-minded person; I want instructions dammit! Surely the Almighty Creator of All Things could tap into my cell-service without any problem.

20140131-003602So okay, God has NOT been blowing up my phone. But you know what? He HAS been blowing up my life lately in all kinds of ways. And the guy can make himself heard!

I found myself telling a total stranger (except now he’s not a total stranger anymore—he’s my friend Anne’s landlord) that “God had told me” to ask him about rental properties. While he was buying tile and I was giving him his veteran’s discount at Home Depot. That’s just crazy. What’s crazier is that he didn’t call me crazy. His response? “I believe.”

Now I’ve just finished saying that I don’t have some special dialed-in bat-channel to God. I’m only just Me.

So Anne asked me yesterday, “HOW does God talk to you? How do you know?” Well, all I have to offer are stories. And she knows some of them—they’re about her.

Anne and I used to hang out two and a half years ago, when Jon and I were just married and she and I were both struggling to get Sober again. Her number has stayed in my phone—but we hadn’t talked, or even messaged, for a couple years. Until I took a nap recently and dreamed she called me. And woke up feeling convicted that I needed to reach out. No logic to that impulse, but I texted her. Got nothing back. Kept texting. Again, no logical reason to keep pinging someone who wasn’t responding—but something was telling me to. It was weeks later that she did call me, checking herself into a crisis center with nowhere to go afterward and no one to pick up her calls.

She’s Clean. But she’s broken. And my text messages were the only recent incoming activity on her phone. Left to myself, I had no reason to contact her. So I can only figure God told me to.

Let me take a moment here to tell you (with her permission) a little about Anne. She’s just 31 years old, a disabled combat vet whose complex PTSD and social anxieties stem from horrific traumas in her childhood and her civilian adult life, some of those very fresh. She has lived under bridges, she has thrown herself off a bridge in Portland, she has drowned in her own life countless times and is still (however reluctantly) here to tell the tale. She jumps out of her skin if anyone touches her or makes a sudden move in her direction, rendering her miserably frazzled and disconnected in settings like our church, where everyone wants to welcome her by hugging. One side of her sports an impish smile and a from-the-gut laugh you can’t help but join, while another side of her manifests in stricken expressions and panicked breathing in the face of the overwhelming requirements of simple daily living. She lives in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and sometimes only her OCD (with its attendant attention-to-details) keeps her going with any semblance of togetherness. Her outlook combines deep thinking and childlike curiosity—when we read Bible together I walk away feeling sheepish that I’d never thought to ask the questions she does.

If I had to pick out one defining characteristic that shapes Anne’s life, it would be the fact that she does NOT. Trust. Anyone. No one feels safe to her. Not counselors. Not pastors. Not medical professionals. Not the VA. Not acquaintances. Not family. It’s not “paranoia” on her part; her life experiences have trained her that not even a mother can be trusted to be safe.

That’s Anne. Traumatized, broken, barely functioning, and absolutely alone. Even her service dog was separated from her when she lost her housing in early July.

So when she asked me yesterday how God “talks” to me, I reminded her of the odd impulse that started me texting her in mid-June. Like God was setting something up when he knew she was about to need it.

Even as she acknowledged the point, she was frowning that she doesn’t think God sends her that kind of message. “You don’t think so?” I challenged her. “Then tell me why you decided to trust me.”

That trust has grown with baby-steps, each promise-from-me coming with a reminder that I haven’t broken a promise yet. They’ve mostly been small promises (“I’ll stay with you in the ER,” “I’ll find out how your dog is doing,” “I’ll call you on my lunch break”) but she started out so sure she couldn’t believe them…

IMG-2408
She won’t let me share her smile… Just her story.

The other day she let me stand behind her and braid her hair. If you know Anne, you know that’s an even bigger deal than the Power of Attorney she signed authorizing me to help her straighten out some issues with the VA. So: “Tell me why you decided to trust me,” I demanded in yesterday’s conversation.

She drew her eyebrows down and looked at me sideways and admitted, “Something just told me I should trust you.”

“Well there you go. God told me to call you, and told you to trust me, and here we are.”

Where-we-are includes that she’s been living in the garage section of our fifth wheel for several weeks while we’ve been searching high and low for new housing for her. It’s not a “renter’s market” here, and although she has a perfect rental-history and guaranteed income (disability), her credit sucks. We couldn’t find her anything.

Enter Ed, chatting me up while buying tile from me at Home Depot. I inexplicably asked him what he knows about rental properties (thank you, God, for the nudge) and he answered that he has one. He’s just finishing up renovating it (hence the tile) and it would be available in about a week. So I told him about Anne. And I’m thinking God told him something, because the next day we were meeting him at his sweet little rental-house with hardwood floors and bright open windows and sturdy old trees lining the front. No credit-check necessary. She can have her service dog back with her.

Anne is still raw, and fresh to the practice of trusting people (or God, for that matter). She won’t fully believe it until she has the keys in hand. But she’s trying to. And she’s tentatively “letting in” some people besides me. Not all the way in, but she’s opening that door and building a belief that maybe there ARE some people who can be trusted. It wouldn’t take much to make her snap those doors shut… But I’m trusting God has this in hand. I still wish he’d text and TELL me so… But he seems to know what he’s doing.

Advertisements
Posted in Motorcycle

First Solo on the Bike

I had my first riding lesson today. Well, okay—“riding” would be overstating the case. But I was moving, and I was alone on the bike!

Jon finds it crazy that I’d never even ridden dirt bikes as a kid (he’s been riding since he was seven!)—and that means everything about biking (except for passenger-ing) is new to me.

I’m completely at home on the back of the bike, doesn’t matter how sharply he maneuvers (man’s got skills!) or how far the bike leans—I’m confident in his skills, and in my perch.

Not surprisingly, it’s a whole different ballgame with the grips in my hands. Shifting with your foot? That’s weird to me.

I’m glad that I’m at least well versed in bicycling (balance and hand brakes—though there’s also a foot-brake involved here), and that I’ve driven a stick-shift car before (so the theory of shifting isn’t new, just the application on a motorcycle). But the rest of this is like learning a new language, with my body!

We went to our church’s private parking lot (since I’m still waiting on the license before I can get the permit before I can take the class before I can get the endorsement—a lovely domino-chain, isn’t it?)… And I spent some time getting the feel for balance—being comfy on the back is different from being responsible for keeping the bike up!

motorcyclist shadowAnd some practice at shifting, getting accustomed to the friction point on the clutch, and easing her forward in first gear… Mostly with my feet walking alongside instead of up on the pegs, just to make sure I was ready to correct if needed.

So those are literally my first baby-steps toward riding…

Last night we took her out on the freeway to stretch her legs!

 

Posted in Reading Reviews, travel

2017: A Year for Reading Rihla

a dusting of snow at our RV park
a dusting of snow at our RV park

Boise Idaho is bearing up under record-breaking conditions this week. We have more snow on the ground than EVER. (Well, at least the “ever” that dates from 1875 when someone started measuring.) We have wind-chill warnings for -25F and more snow on the way, possibly to be followed next week by rain, of all things, and likely flooding…  All that to say that I’m not going out much this week!

Aside from my “commute” to the RV park office (thankfully, only a three-minute walk) I’m playing Hobbit and holing up in the cozy confines of our RV! Nevertheless, my mind is free to wander. No, wait—that’s not what I meant. My mind is free to travel, and I’ve decided that this is going to be my Year of the Travelogue.

The Way Martin SheenMy mom & Jon & I watched “The Way” (Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez, 2010) during our Christmas visit, and it fired up my already-engaged gears on the subjects of Travel and Experience. I’m ultra-aware right now of the possibilities inherent in living-on-wheels, and the travel-bug isn’t new to me… Even more than GOING places, though, it’s an urge to EXPERIENCE places, which is what that film really explored (in my opinion). And that’s not to exclude whatever place I am right now, even when that might be holed-up-at-home.

For over a week now, I’ve had the Wikipedia-page for “Rihla” open on my iPhone, and it keeps drawing me back.

… the genre of work called Rihla … or the creative travelogue: a mix of personal narrative, description, opinion and anecdote…

I abhor travel guides, but I love travelogues. And I think this excerpt from Arabic culture has nailed the distinction: a travelogue is a creative and personal work. It’s a work about a person’s experience, rather than merely about a place. (It’s what this blog is for me.) Continue reading “2017: A Year for Reading Rihla”

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery, writing

Changing My Story

T-Rex tape
What does it take to change your story? SMART goals, and maybe T-rex tape.

Sometimes the really simple stuff is the hardest to get my hard head around… How is it, for example, that I can have a goal and know what it is and face no real impediments—yet it doesn’t materialize? When there’s not some external obstacle, why don’t I get that goal accomplished?

Well, it all comes down to ME, doesn’t it? But knowing that doesn’t magically move my goals to the “achieved” column—I still need to take action or make changes.

I was in a group therapy session last night where we were talking about changes. In this Season of Resolutions, it’s an apt topic. I tend to avoid “resolutions” with almost superstitious fervor, and even the list I made the other day was composed quickly and carelessly, comprised of things I’d already intended to be doing…

What’s on the horizon for 2017? I’m going to learn fly-fishing and rapelling, courtesy of my husband. I’m going to read a lot (as always). I’m going to keep writing, now that I’ve started again. I’m going to do some scuba diving in Idaho lakes. I’m going to enjoy hundreds of miles more on the motorcycle. I’m going to pray, and live Sober. I’m going to get new tattoos. I’m going to grin a lot.

Those hardly count as resolutions, do they? Resolutions are supposed to be game-changers, not stuff I already planned and am sure of crossing off.  I don’t “do” resolutions… And yet, here I am thinking of the fresh calendar, the fresh journal I just started, the fresh opportunity to say, “THIS year I”…)

It IS seductive, thinking of a fresh start at things. Continue reading “Changing My Story”

Posted in travel

Travels with Toots

image
toilet training with Toots (and a book!)

Toots is the teddy bear I’ve had since I was a year old. Well, we’ve always called him a teddy bear, though his actual shape is sort of open to interpretation…

He’s had several face-lifts in that time (in fact, he had a whole “body-lift” a couple years ago after a dog got to him and left only his head and one arm… Thank goodness my mother is an expert seamstress, and dedicated to the cause of beloved bears!)…

Toots has been with me on a lot of travels. When I was ten, my family drove around Europe for six months and eighteen countries (including behind the Iron Curtain, and through countries that don’t exist on today’s maps)—Toots was with me for the whole trip. He has earned a lot of passport-stamps.

image

He’s been present for my adult milestones too. Yes, that’s a photo of me with Toots on my [first] wedding-day. He has comforted me in hospitals and rehab (and I missed him in jail)…

In short, Toots has been a fixed point through the journey of my life… although until this year, he has often been relegated to closet-shelves while I was married.

Yup, until this year. My hubby, Jon, however, celebrates the kid in me (probably recognizes it because his own is near the surface!) and he has brought Toots back out of the closet with a flourish.

image
Salmon River, Idaho (Toots in the saddlebag!)

We started with a motorcycle trip to see my parents over Memorial Weekend, Toots riding along for 600 miles in a saddlebag. And when we stopped to visit my grandma for what would turn out to be the last time, I wasn’t sure she recognized me… but she definitely knew Toots! I was glad we’d brought him along.

image

Last summer Jon & I took our first vacation together, a camping road-trip to the Oregon Coast… and Jon not only made sure that Toots came along, he made a game of posing with him in as many places as we could think of. Toots cooked biscuits and gravy over our camp stove. Toots flew a kite on the beach. Toots enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder. Toots climbed the lighthouse tower… Continue reading “Travels with Toots”

Posted in Lists, Mental Health

Entering the Lists

list3My notebook is bent, battered, and buckled, every kind of abused but bruised.  The covers crease from frequent folding, and tags & stickies protrude from its pages. I’ve had it for all of three weeks.

The notebook serves as a journal, but it its pages have also filled with sketches, blog-post brainstorms, A.A. Stepwork, notes from group sessions and church sermons, quotes and definitions related to writing-topics, comparisons of health insurance plans, my checkbook register, ledgers tracking my freelance writing pay and my hotspot data-usage…  And LISTS. Lots of lists.

Some to-do lists are sprinkled through there, but those aren’t the most common denomination. The weirder ones don’t have an obvious purpose. Since I keep making them, though, I surely hope there’s something accomplished in the writing of them. I’m just not entirely sure WHAT.  Continue reading “Entering the Lists”

Posted in Family, Home & Garden, Idaho, Recovery, travel

Addendum to a Eulogy

Yesterday my dad should have turned seventy. He passed away this year on my birthday, so this weekend we’ve been missing him on his.

canoe and canoeist
daddy-daughter canoe trip, Northern Idaho 1987

Ironically, I could still practice my favorite joke-ritual, which was not to call my dad (whose depth of phone-phobia was rivaled only by my sister’s and my own) on his birthday. I even found him a card one year that offered a “no-call” option as a birthday present. (Actually, I usually did call anyway—and this week I’m glad of that.)

One of the horrible ironies of memorial services is the fact that grieving people are expected (worse: expect themselves) to brilliantly and eruditely sum up LOVE, as it applies to a suddenly-missing person, at a point in time when their hearts are most broken and their brains are most fried. In such a case, the best you can hope for is that God will get some of the right words into your mouth (or out of your pen), and that the other people missing him will be able to fill in the rest through their love and memories.

The single story I most wanted to share about my dad didn’t seem appropriate for either the obituary I wrote nor the eulogy at his service. Somehow, alcoholism (in either the speaker or the deceased) doesn’t seem like a welcome subject in those venues… But this story says SO much about my dad, and here’s a place where I can tell it. Continue reading “Addendum to a Eulogy”