Not as Alone as I Think

I want to say something,  something illogical and foolish, but please bear with me. It’s been a while since I have written anything. There’s good reason for this, well no, actually it makes sense but it’s not a good reason, in fact it’s rather counter intuitive.

In the past month(s) I’ve come to realize something about me. I enjoy being around people, not ground breaking, but I need to be around people. I need to be with people I trust and I can be completely vulnerable with. The difficulty I’ve found is that though I have people around me I close myself off, in part because I worry about people’s thoughts about me, what I’m sharing, but in large part due to this feeling that I will overwhelm the people I care about with the extensive overthinking I do.

I feel as though, because I want to care for people around me who carry so much as it is, I cannot load more on their shoulders.

So the problem persists, grows, and compounds, creating an unhealthy Greg, withdrawn from the people that care for me and stewing in negative thoughts or just too many thoughts.

Foolish right?

Now, in the past to sort of “sidetrack” this issue, or for an eloquent “put together” way of expressing my internal turmoil, I blog, I write about it. (This is beyond the daily journaling I do). This way I can share a struggle, a frustration, a confusion, without true intimacy because I give it themes and metaphorical meaning, externally processing with the enigmatic wide web which includes whomever “chooses to read/hear” my stresses. Typically written blogs give an air of finality to personal struggles, like “writing about it means it’s solved, or mostly solved” which is much more manageable than unresolved conflict, which is messy.

Since I have been trying to work on friendships (or rather this is what I told myself) I didn’t want to share my struggles via blog without cluing in at least some people because then I’d get the typical former response of, “Hey I had no idea, please come to me if you ever need to talk”. I want people to know me, I need people. This is why I haven’t been blogging.

While this has been “good” I haven’t been doing my part. I haven’t been sharing.

I recently reread “Scary Close” by Donald Miller, this is now the third time reading it (I think this will become a habit). The book outlines how Don struggles with intimacy, how he’s been “performing” his whole life. He walks through his journey of discovery through his relationship patterns up until his wife. The book explores how life is meant to be shared and though it’s scary, to be known by people.

Rereading this book and a moment of clarity on a Sunday at church woke me up. My ideas culminated to a realization, I’ve been emotionally unhealthy. I realized it fully when my friend asked me why I was sitting on my own reading my Bible rather than be at lunch with my team/friends.

Reading the Bible is not the issue, in fact it’s a great thing, an essential aspect to life. It was the timing and the scenario. I timed my day in such a way that I missed lunch with my friends, in fact I didn’t miss eating, I had grabbed food on my own and then sat down to read. I told my friend as I was realizing it for myself. Because I need people to process my own thoughts with, I isolate myself when I am feeling anxious because I don’t want to overwhelm my friends with my anxieties.

I’ve been making things worse.

Last night as I was sharing with my friend an encounter I had with God this week, a moment where God was again asking me to trust Him which I was struggling to do. It was interesting though because after I shared, after I included him in my struggling and the process God was walking me through he thanked me. Not just for sharing “myself”, my process, with him, but also he was reminded of something God had spoken to him. My friend basically told me that not only should I share with people for my health but for others to learn.

Life is meant to be lived with others, to share the burdens we are not strong enough to carry on our own. To get perspective from those not within a situation, not themselves crushed by a specific anxiety. We can learn from hearing what people are processing and realize that we are not as alone as we may perceive.

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I have a problem, a serious problem. I don’t know how to ask for help. The very idea of it scares me, almost to the point of a panic attack. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know if it’s pride, not wanting to admit that I can’t handle life on my own. I think that is part of it at least.

But you know what really gets me?

The idea of writing this, makes me anxious, too. Because this is an indirect ask for help, part of me wants this to be an ask, but the biggest need is to be cathartic because not sharing is also hard. Whenever i get stressed out the best way for me to figure it out is to talk about it, but often as not when I talk about needing something people want to help.

Which stresses me out.

I love helping people, in fact, I don’t know if I like anything more than to be that dependable friend who helps in times of need. I don’t know how to be helped. I feel mixed up, grateful and happy, but also indebted and stressed. I keep mental notes of what I need to do, but you know what is awful, typically I cannot pay it back.

This past year has been extremely difficult and it seems to be culminating up as the year comes as a close. I have been paying all my bills, some a bit late, but they get paid in full. If you’ve been reading my posts over this year you know this. I am tired. I know I need to be faithful, I know I need to hope and that God will come through and I will wait for that, but I am tired and stressed and I don’t know how to ask for help.

Christmas is a week away and I’ve managed to get the week off, but you know what? I don’t have anything after that. I just paid last months rent three days ago. I probably won’t be able to pay next months on time. I have eaten grilled cheese about three times already this week. I have zero dollars in my bank account, well a little more, but I have to keep shifting it around so that my bank doesn’t give me any penalties or some money doesn’t get charged for something random. I have all these parties this week too, and I can’t figure out to attend and not be the party pooper who can’t bring a gift, or someone buys a gift for me to give, or I can’t afford to get anything other than water.

But how do I ask for help?

Aren’t I supposed to prove to the world that I can handle this? Isn’t God supposed to prove to everyone that this was where I was supposed to go? If I ask for help won’t people think that this wasn’t actually where I was supposed to go? Or perhaps it’s a different sort of success we are to see in our lives, that the people of the bible who were called places faced a lot of adversity? Or perhaps what’s scarier is maybe I’m deluded.

A few years back there was a difficult time in my family and when I finally broke through my own insecurities about asking for help I was accosted and told to “grow up” from someone I trusted. It hurt. I know it’s not correct, but it’s still in my head that I need to prove myself a capable adult, but I don’t know if I can. I can’t do this on my own.

I can’t even complain because there are so many people that have worse off and I have so many people that I have in my life that care for me and even people working to get me home, it’s still uncertain, but there are those who are really trying to get me even now, and perhaps this is going to be an eleventh hour miracle, or even 11:59 miracle.

And here’s the takeaway, I suppose, sometimes life isn’t full of roses and rainbows, but you’ve gotta just keep going. I think it’s alright to ask for help though, and I think it’s alright to be stressed and anxious, but I think you can’t let it ruin your life.

One time I had a conversation with a good friend and we were mentioning the cliche (which is Biblical and true) that God’s mercies are new every morning when it dawned on me (pun completely intended) that it’s always morning somewhere.

Well, who knows I may write a “amazing God came through, everything worked out” post, or it may be one of those “well I was surrounded by friends and sometimes life is difficult but it’s okay” post. Life is weird that way. Anyway, this was kind of a ramble but that’s where  my brain is at currently, so sorry.

Merry Christmas!

Mourning my Mother

I have been mourning the death of my mother for probably about three years.

I say probably because my mother is still living.

About ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that attacks the nervous system. Each of your nerves has a casing around the length of a long strand that enables the signals that travel through your brain and nervous system to act at the rate at which it does, so when you want to say a word, lift your arm, type on a computer you do not have to consciously tell each muscle what needs to do what in order for the activity to be performed. With MS your white blood cells think your nerves are attacking the body so they attack the nerves and wear down the cells myelin sheath (the casing).

All that to say it slowly breaks down body functioning and it’s one of those weird diseases that has so many varied symptoms case to case that it is difficult to diagnose and then difficult to track, not to mention there is no cure.

For the first couple of years after the diagnosis (which was comparatively fast) seemed like the disease wouldn’t affect our family that much. Mom just got tired a lot faster than she used to, which just meant instead of working all day, making dinner, and working on household chores, she just worked all day and made dinner. After a while she stopped making meals, the heat seemed to bother her more than anything. Then she got in an accident and stopped driving. Then she got let go from her job, but that seemed like a blessing because she was exhausted all the time and it provided a nice severance.

Slowly but surely Mom slowed down, but she was still my mom, a rapier wit and full of wisdom. She always seemed to know what to say. The first year at college I was able to see the changes better. When you are with someone as they consistently change you don’t see the gradual shifts, but when you only see your family every once in a while you see the different milestones better. When Mom started using a walker I knew things were serious, but I don’t think I realized how bad it was getting until a Disneyland trip.

We had passes so we would go probably once a week or at least once every other week. We brought the wheelchair because it was easier to maneuver. We had begun to stick mostly to rides it was easy to get in and out again.  This time we thought Matterhorn was a good idea because it was low to the ground and the way the seating used to be, she could sit right in front of my dad and he could hold onto her.

I don’t think I can ever forget the sound of her crying throughout the entirety of the ride. It wasn’t a sad cry, but a terrified wailing.

The problem was because she couldn’t hold herself up she felt like she was going to fall out. You know the game jello where you “let loose” to fall and sway with the turns on a car trip, mostly just an excuse to hit your siblings or push your friends into the side of the car. For my mom, this ride was jello, but she couldn’t stop. My dad was holding tight to her and kept reassuring her, “I’ve got you.” “You’re not going anywhere” Even my sister and I tried to offer support from the back, but it didn’t matter. I think at that moment she realized she would never ride this ride again and that there were a lot of other things she would never be doing again. Something changed for me that day.

Moving away from my parents was difficult, but coming home after leaving excruciating. Mom was getting worse and there was nothing I could do.

Multiple Sclerosis keeps winning.

While home for Christmas I found out my mom has opted for a “DNR of no resuscitation” which basically means if she ever collapses and is no responsive and/or is in a coma the EMTs and Medical personal are to not try and save her. To let her die.

People say that there are five steps to grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

I think I have experienced all of these already and as I mentioned she’s still alive. There’s something to be said of the emotional shock of someone passing suddenly, the surrealism, of them being there one day and gone the next. Something else entirely to be said of the slow kind, the one that slowly steals the one you love away. The one where you could have the immense hope of recovery surge up only for it to fall and you to wonder if it were better if they were gone already. When sentences like, “If she stops eating she would not feel pain or the feeling of starving, hunger would just go away” is devastating and at the same time a relief.

It’s confusing and painful. I know God is here with me and I am trying to see the sense. There may not be any. I know He cares for my mom, more than I, my sister or my dad ever could, so I know He will care for her and I know there’s complete healing in Heaven, but I want my mom back.

Three Things

I’ve been avoiding writing for a while. I’m not sure why. It seems that I have had something of note to write about for the past three days, but I have consistently busied myself so I would not have an opportunity to write. Today in a moment when I was praying I felt God impress on me to write. Write three things.

I graduated from college Saturday,

My mom suffers from severe Multiple Sclerosis,

and

God is good.

It may or may not be known but for the past four years I have been attending college at Life Pacific College, well in a manner of speaking I have. To begin with, I knew in 6th grade I was supposed to attend LIFE, but as these things go, by the time I was in High School I wanted to go anywhere but LIFE. In a longer story for another time, God made it clear I was to attend LIFE. So, much to the chagrin of my teachers, I applied to one school. I was accepted and I moved in Fall of 2010.

I got the most coveted job on the campus, the coffee shop and I enrolled in 19 units. Because of my IB Diploma units I was able to take upper division courses. Needless to say, I had a full semester. I also was able to make some wonderful friends in that time. During this first semester of college, God spoke again to me very clearly. There was a discipleship program moving across the country to grow into a school and I was to go with them. Though I was sad to leave I knew this is where God wanted me to go.

During my first year in Virginia I took courses distantly through LIFE, just a few, but it kept me on schedule enough for when LIFE opened up their Degree Completion Program, and 18 month online program that would allow me to finish my college education on time.

Thus we are now at present. Four years go by faster than you would think. I walked Saturday with those that I did Freshman orientation with four years ago. I graduated with to my first college roommate and nearly my whole quad for that first year.

Surreal

How amazing it was to graduate with those I started with and though I was apart from them for three years I was able to make it back to the finish line right with them. I would never have planned this, but it was a gift. I graduated college.

I’m going to Disneyland!

Sunday was Mother’s Day and this was the first Mother’s Day I have been with my mom in three years. Because it has always been a family favorite, we went to Disneyland. It was hot. My mom has severe Multiple Sclerosis. To give a gist, MS inhibits nerve function, heat makes it worse. Besides some difficulty we were able to manage the day.

We went again yesterday. It was hotter.

To be honest, living far away has made it easy to not think about this. To not consider how bad my mom’s disease has progressed. She is consistently in a wheel chair and my dad has to carry her in and out of it . She cannot go to the bathroom alone. Her legs shake and fall off the foot rests. She can’t hold up her body so she slides into the chair and just recently she has has had difficulty holding up her head. This creates the problem of drooling as well.

Ten years ago my mother would have charged through the crowd with determination, avoiding the people who lagged.

The first time we noticed it was bad, was about five years ago when we tried to ride the Matterhorn. It’s a rickety roller coaster but it was designed to do “lap sitting” so my dad could hold her. After launching off we proceeded with what was probably the worst ride of our lives. She was in hysterical tears the entire ride, panicking that she would fall out. My dad was holding her as tight as he could and she was still sliding about unable to hold herself up. After that we stayed away from that ride and mostly stuck with boat rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World. She can no longer ride any rides other than the large ships that circle the Rivers of America or the Disneyland Train.

We finally decided after being there for a mere three hours that it would be best if she went home to rest. I realized that may be the last time she goes to Disneyland.

My mom loves Disneyland.

It has always been a place for our whole family to go. I think the realization that she may not be able to go back to Disneyland has made this disease real to me. When my dad and her left yesterday I nearly broke down.

My father is a champion.

He has loved and taken care of my mom since the diagnosis with more responsibility as it has progressed. He carried her, washes her, dresses her and does what he can to provide for her, all on his own. They live in Oregon while my sister lives in Southern California and I live across the country.

It is in these moments I question. I wonder. Should I move home to help them? What could I accomplish? Then I think, “No God called me here”. But, I finished college, I was gone for three years from home and in that time they were kicked out of their house and moved away. My moms health has deteriorated. I know it’s not my fault these things happened but could I have done anything to make it easier?

Looking back doesn’t help. I must look forward, but to what? Working at a school? Perhaps a higher degree? To what end? I sat pondering this, wondering if I should return west and help my parents. They have a huge Shakespeare theatre festival I could work. Perhaps I attempt to work there. I can’t shake this feeling though, that I need to stay in the East.

Do you trust me?

Is what I hear Him say. Can I trust Him to take care of them? Can I trust Him to take care of my future? I know I need to return now, but who knows what will happen in a few months? God will care for us, He will guide us, He will provide for us and I know it is still possible for Him to heal my mom.

God is Good.

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Good News

Tonight I went to a Christmas Eve service as is the customary tradition. This year, due to spending Christmas with my folks I went to a church I had never gone to for the service. Typically my family attends a Christmas Eve Service at our church which we follow with a trip to Marie Callender’s for pie and a drive through an area full of Christmas lights.

This year’s Christmas is all wrong. We are not in our own home. The place we are staying has no Christmas Tree or even a decoration to show that it is Christmas. We won’t have any gifts in the morning because no one can afford them. The worst bit: my sister is still in Southern California. Christmas is all wrong.

I am so grateful that I get to be here with my Parents, but this Christmas is different than any I have experienced before. This Christmas I realize what adulthood looks like.

This whole past month and a half has been a rough one for me and I say this not because I am trying to complain or garner sympathy, but in an endeavor to be honest with my experiences, this has been a rough season (I’m pretty sure it has been for everyone in my family in our own ways).

Lost. Anxious. Afraid. Confused.

This is where I am, this is where we are.

Tonight I went to a Christmas Eve service at a foreign church, but I am so glad we decided to go. Before we began to sing the Christmas hymns and carols they showed this video. By the time it finished I was crying.

It is cliche to say that this is what Christmas is all about, but it truly is.

I have gotten so frustrated with how things have been going, been consistently having anxiety, getting distracted with my own issues, but I was stopped…. God came down in the form of a baby.

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!

How great is my joy! I cannot explain it, but I just felt this warm peace fall down over my shoulders pulling up this weight that I had been carrying unnecessarily. God is bigger than my problems and issues. Life will continue in spite of my struggles. I have been so focused on myself that I have forgotten who this is all about. How great is our Joy? The Lord is come.

He is here with me and he is with you.

Know this: this eight scale musical truth is the greatest news. We have hope because the Almighty has given us His son to die for my sins, to free me from that which binds me and inhibits me.

Joy to the World!