mental health

Kindness

In the past week I have seen kindness in many shapes and forms. Each instance was in plain sight. Could everyone see the kindness? Would anyone react and create their own kindness towards others?

Some interesting questions I asked myself. Instead of wondering about the potential domino effect of kindness that could happen, I decided I should write a blog about kindness hoping kindness would be multiplied around the world.

Today some friends went caroling for the holidays. They visited a few sweet elderly ladies. One was struggling after the loss of a spouse of a lifetime. The other battles dementia. The music lifted their spirits. No matter if it was lifted for seconds, minutes or hours. The kindness lifted spirits of those who needed it most. Examples like this show me that hope is still alive today. 

Last week I witnessed an elementary-age school girl who wanted to raise money to buy kids toys for Christmas who were less fortunate. She drew hundreds of pictures and her parents helped her sell a digital copy of her art to buy the toys. So many toys were bought. This little girl’s kindness will make the holidays extra special for so many children. In addition she restored hope in many via the internet of goodness in the air. What an amazing story to share. 

Then there is the kindness in friendships. I am so lucky to have friends who are always there to support you when you need them most. The friends who help you in tough times but also celebrate with you in good times. Kindness and friendship work together in unison. 

In a world of chaos why not be kind? Kindness matters. Please read this short post and think of how you can offer kindness in your area. How can you support the elderly? How can you volunteer at a food pantry? How can you help guide somebody who is struggling? Think kindness today. Set a resolution for kindness in 2021 and every year thereafter.  

Be purposeful. Be intentional. Spread kindness like you would spread butter on bread. Offering kindness is free!

friendship, giving

Longest Night

When became an adult, got married, moved into a house and had kids (not necessarily in that order), I joined a Methodist church. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school, so this was a big change. One of the first new traditions I embraced was the Longest Night. Each year, on Winter Solstice, the Methodist church had a service that focused on the darker times of the past year. People came who had experienced loss, depression. grief.

At that point, I had recently lost my mother. I had a new baby, a new home, and was overwhelmed and heavy-hearted. I joined the bell choir and played for that service. That first year, I remember just crying through the whole thing.

As you can imagine, the service is not just about loss. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Once Solstice is over, brighter days are literally ahead. So the service is also about finding hope. About persistence. About the triumph of good and light.

I love symbolism so this service always meant a lot to me. I like the idea of things getting better. Of marking time. The cycle of increasing light. And it always comes just before Christmas, a time of frantic preparation. It is a moment to just be still and reflect.

I don’t attend that church these days, but I still take time to reflect every Solstice and remind myself that lighter days are ahead.

This year the Solstice seemed both especially poignant and especially necessary. COVID has wreaked havoc on many lives. So many in my circle have lost loved ones this year. Some due to COVID, others for other natural reasons, but COVID took away our ability to gather and mourn in the way we all want and need to. Still others are hunkered down at home to protect themselves and loved ones, which brings all the pain and challenge of isolation, disruption of routine, and more.

It has just been a heavy year.

I started hearing about the “Christmas Star” (or Great Conjunction) a few weeks before Solstice. Again, the symbolism of Solstice, this unique astronomical happening, and the stars were literally aligned.

I also had it in my mind to go caroling this year. I say every year I want to sing for people more (and not just the poor people at the gym who have to hear me sing along to the soundtrack when I’m squatting). I don’t know why I expect opportunities to be a backup singer for Yacht Rock Revue to fall out of the sky. This Solstice I see I need to create those opportunities.

Who could I bring some light to? We decided to visit two special Moms who have had challenging years, each in their own ways.

I loaded my car and started the night by going out to see the Christmas Star. I went to a parking lot in a remote park about 15 minutes from my house. I was surprised to find about 25 other cars in the lot, all there to view this planetary wonder. I just took some time to quietly look and think about this year and its gifts.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to the first grandmother’s house. A couple of friends and family members joined in. We dressed silly, I brought my sleigh bells and song books, and off we set to spread some cheer. Our living room concerts brought laughter and tears, smiles and singing along. We took requests. We flubbed the lyrics and stumbled over melodies. We jingled our bells, giggled, swayed and twinkled. In the end, we brought cheer and good tidings and light. On the way to grandmother two’s house we saw lights and so many other holiday sights.

Both these women have lived through this challenging year. They’ve made the most of it. I hope we brought some light and hope to their lives this December. I know their smiles and delight lifted me up. As one of them put it, when we said our goodbyes, “same time next year!”

It’s a date.

family

9-11 or 911 or…

As the days approach 9/11 I reflect back on this date for many reasons. For me, my reasons are nothing like those who lost loved ones that day many years ago and I acknowledge that. 

What I do get to think about is what I was doing on that day, who was with me and where I was at that stage of life. How the world seemed at a standstill after that event shattered the world. Similar to the blank state of mind where we have been stuck with Corona of late.

My parents were visiting for my middle child’s 1st birthday all those years ago. Unable to fly home due to the safety concerns. Almost 20 years later and more turmoil in the world. Again flights are limited or not recommended. Another date I’m missing my dad that I had with me in that memorable time but not today.

My son’s first birthday. How far he is from that pure innocent child at such a ripe age. Now a maturing adult navigating life in such a complex world. Not realizing he lived through 9/11. Twisting around looking at my daughter who wasn’t even born yet. She doesn’t even recognize the magnitude of 9/11. She has toured the area in NYC but still lacks the depth of my experience on that same day. Just interesting to think about.

When I titled this article 9/11 or 911 I did it accidentally but then wondered if there was a coincidence that the date 9/11 was chosen due to the significance of 911 or emergency call in our society? Maybe that’s a dumb question but honestly it’s the first time it hit me front and center. I’m sure the backstory is in one of the documentaries but I hadn’t really acknowledged that point until now. Almost 20 years later.

Maybe I have always thought of this date in different ways and didn’t notice that coincidence. What do you remember about this date? How are you impacted when the date surfaces each year? Do you see any similarities to the pandemic of today? Just a food for thought post. Looking back almost 20 years to see how the world has changed and how much people in your life evolve in such time. 

family

Feelings of Worry

Do feelings or worry keep you up at night or make sleeping restless? The answer for me is generally no.

However, as a mother I have had many sleepless night thanks to my kiddos. It could be when they were little without words crying. Was I doing the right thing as a mom? I could use the sleep but couldn’t sleep as I was carrying the worry burden in my mind.

Then it was when they had a cold, recovered from an injury, or even had surgery. Those seemed like tough scenarios at the time but nothing prepares you for aging kids. That’s when the grey hair comes.

There is even worry about me time. Am I being selfish making time for me when the kids could use x, y or z? Is there a capable spouse that could fill my void while I take some me time? Is my mental balance important even as a mom? Over the years feelings of worry hit at various times for various reasons resulting in sleepless nights. I think it comes with the mother territory but I don’t recall reading about it in the motherhood books.

Nothing in my mind prepares a mom for aging teens to early adults. When they drive a car will they be safe? When they leave your home to adult will they make good choices? Will they eat right? Will they make good financial decisions? So many scenarios that can be stressful if you allow it to eat away at you in your mind.

Most days I do a good job keeping those feelings at bay. However when it’s time
to lay down the law, apply pressure and push the aging kiddos, I wonder if they are ready. Did they mature? Do they have the mental toughness I had at that age? Am I being too hard?

Today’s world is complex. It doesn’t appear that kids mature at the level I was expected to at the same age. There is more coddling and hand holding. Is this society? Is it my parenting? How can one child fare okay and another struggle?

Thoughts at 4am to ponder. Do your kids even think you worry about them when they are adults? I know my mom worries and she is in her 80s. Did I make it home after a long drive? Am I too busy with work? The list goes on. But today’s kids think it’s more of a chore to check in. Why would anyone worry about me?-type attitude.

At what point does one mature and see the vantage point of others? Some days I think I’m mature. Other days I think I have plenty of growing to do. When I refer to maturity, I don’t mean physical maturity. I mean mature in life. Understanding the connectedness of people, emotions and so on.

Again just a random rant capturing the moments of sleep loss due to worry of a loved one. Another day no emergency phone call. I guess that’s a good sign for now. It’s my thought they think I have no worries but in fact they are my only worry.

Life as a mom is the hardest job in the world yet it’s the most rewarding. The job doesn’t pay money but it pays overtime in memories, experiences and keeps you on your toes.

Enjoy today. Live like there is no tomorrow. Regret nothing. Worry less. That’s my mom motto.

awareness

In the Dark

When I wrote a recent post called nightfall, I thought back to many other nights and the sounds that were different in life. A lot less peaceful. Scary. Bothersome. Then I thought I should share a different kind of nightfall. One many will never know and most would never enjoy.

The haunting night from a child’s eyes. One of many scary night scenarios that happen behind closed doors. Do you think you know what this story will be about?

Maybe you think know but I doubt you really could know unless you lived in these shoes. The sounds of the night that are not so bright. So here goes.

Boom! Wake up! A loud shriek from the other room. A bang on the wall. Now more pounding. A loud scream. That’s my brother making those noises. What is happening?

In the middle of the night it happened again!

What is it? Why am I wide awake? What time is it?

At first I didn’t know but then my parents explained it me.

Boom. Aaaaaaahhhhhh. Shake shake shake. Boom. Ahhhhhhhh. Ouch! Another high pitch shriek. A piercing duh duh duh duh duh sound on repeat. A fearful and painful scream.

That is my brother making those loud sounds as my parents rush to him. What is going on I asked?

Go back to bed, says mom.

I peek from my bedroom door. It is my brother having a seizure in his sleep.

My brother has had seizures since I was in my mommy’s tummy as a baby so I don’t know him any other way.

I love my big brother. He is the best big brother.

He can’t help himself when he has a seizure. It’s a medical problem.

Most people won’t understand seizures if they don’t get educated about them because people look okay on the outside but inside their brain they sometimes have a firework party that makes their whole body shake.

His body gets tight and shakes and he makes painful sounds for about 10 Or 20 seconds.

The time seems like hours when you have to watch your brother have a seizure but it’s only seconds.
Count 1 Mississippi
2 Mississippi
3 Mississippi
4 Mississippi
5 Mississippi…
6
7
8
9
10

See it’s not too long but now I have to try to go back to sleep. I have a test at school tomorrow. Wait so does my brother. Oh no.

My tummy hurts a little because I am worried about him. Mom says I have to sleep school starts early in the morning for both of us.

Just when my parents get him settled back to sleep,

it happens again. And again.

My parents say this is a cluster and I should go back to bed. But they don’t know I really watch my brother.

I watch him sleep to make sure he is okay. I don’t want him to hurt himself.

Oh no, here comes another one. Breathe my mom says breathe.

This is hard to watch. Even the sounds are hard to listen to.

My brother is so strong he can hurt somebody when he has a seizure. Watch out mom. She ducks as he flails and swings his arms and legs.

I watched him break a table when I was younger. I watched him hurt himself when had a seizure and bumped the wall too hard.

I wish the doctors could fix my brother but they can’t.

I am going to be a doctor one day. I want to help kids who have seizures. I wonder how many other people see seizures at night. My mom calls them nocturnal seizures. I call them terrifying.

Nightfall can be peaceful on many days in many environments however there can also be a darkness associated with nightfall. This example shows a glimpse into a medical environment that is extreme to some and normal to others.

Some children have a different fear of nightfall. The sounds of rage or alcoholism for example. These sounds play out a bit differently. Ponder those thoughts or scenarios as you set in for your nightfall. Somehow the sounds of crickets seems worlds away.

This post came from the vault. A vault of posts that are written but may not come to life until a later date. For this post it’s today.

As the world has changed so much with corona, some nightfalls have remained the same for some but magnified for others. Those with scary nights like the ones noted above still suffer on top of the uncertainties corona brings. It’s important to consider the burden of others who may not be as lucky as you when night comes.