Courage, Vulnerability, And Just Being Human

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For most of my life, I thought I was the only person in the world who struggled with this, so I am relieved to see that maybe, just maybe, unrequited attraction and fear of rejection are kind of universal.

“Why are we so ashamed, anyway? Why does ‘liking’ someone always make us feel embarrassed, like we need to hide it or treat it with kid gloves?”

Why, indeed?

Thought Catalog

“You have more courage than me,” he said in response.

I had just confessed to someone that I had begun to think of him as more than a friend.

The feeling was not mutual, but having courage was my consolation prize. It’s good to be courageous, but I hadn’t thought of my bold proclamation as an act of courage – I thought of it more as an act of impatience on my own part.

I didn’t want to wait and see what, if anything, would unfold with the right portions of time and space and dare-I-say destiny. I couldn’t quite muster the energy to do the socially acceptable thing, to stick it out, to drop hints and pick up on semi-subtle cues. I just wanted to know where I stood, for better or for worse.

The quick way. Ripping off the band-aid.

For the record, you know you’re not terribly…

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What is meant to be

I love this little boy-meets-girl story from The New York Times, with all its serendipity and romance. Girl decides to take a well-earned vacation, travels to St. Thomas on a whim, meets boy with boat there. Ultimately, they sail off into the sunset together.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

My favorite boy-meets-girl story of all time, though, happened in my own family. My mother’s older brother got a job as a ranch hand one summer when he was still in his teens. It was on a big ranch, “out in the middle of nowhere,” my mother always said, and he worked mostly by himself. The place next door to this ranch boarded horses, and one of those horses belonged to a dark-eyed Italian girl who caught his eye across the fence, apparently, and fell hard for my uncle’s fresh-scrubbed good looks. They are still married, more than 50 years later, the proud parents of two handsome, dark-eyed boys who grew up to be wonderful men, and grandparents to a whole swarm of kids upon whom they dote.

Your task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

I’ve always taken comfort from that story, and the hope it holds out that what’s meant to be will always find a way, no matter how far you try to run away from it or hide from it. If love is meant to find you, it will find you wherever you are.

“All it takes is some time and some destiny …”

Keeping our eyes open

I saw this comic today and thought of my mother, who gets a lot of visits from family and friends while she is rehabbing (and making excellent progress, I might add). She has a lot of angels around her all the time who keep their eyes on her.


I noticed while I was visiting her at the skilled nursing facility that many residents didn’t have any visitors at all day after day to help keep an eye on them and ensure they were being well cared for. Mom had somebody with her at nearly every meal, during her therapy sessions, and at bedtime. We made sure the attendants came when she pressed the call button, arranged her room so everything she needed was in easy reach, checked to make sure she was warm (or cool) enough, provided manicures and pedicures, refilled her water bottles, combed her hair, washed her laundry at home with the hypoallergenic detergent, and brought her favorite foods as often as we could. We fussed and bothered and hovered, trying to do whatever little bit we could to make her more comfortable in an unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable place.

I wish every person who has to spend time in a facility like that could enjoy the same level of care from their loved ones.

Cheering for my mother

This is my mom on the day before her birthday last year, having a laugh with her dog, Sunny.

Isn't she just the cutest?

Isn’t she just the cutest?

Mom is an artist in several media, including oil painting, tole painting, watercolor painting and pastels. She’s a gym rat who has clocked more than 600 workouts at Curves in the past two and a half years. She’s a former RN and massage therapist, a Reiki master, a gardener, a cook, a collector of museum-quality crystals and gemstones, a believer in angels, and a fan of all forms of spiritual practice that involve compassion and loving-kindness. She’s been devoted to my dad for more than 50 years. She is a lively, beautiful, kind, funny, generous, compassionate woman and an amazing mom. I don’t mind telling you, I totally hit the jackpot in the mom lottery this time around.

Me and mom, July 2010.

Me and mom, July 2010.

Two weeks ago, she woke up and was unable to move her legs. She called the paramedics, who took her to the emergency room. Many hours of tests and anxious waiting later, she went into surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves in her spine from herniated discs and lumbar stenosis. Just as it appeared she was pulling out of the dense fog of anesthesia from this surgery, it became apparent that she had suffered a stroke that affected both her legs (the left leg in particular) and prevents her from walking. What had been a fairly straightforward orthopedic case with an expected recovery time of a few days suddenly became a neurological case with no clear answers or predictable outcomes.

She spent 10 days in the hospital, attended and cheered almost around the clock by her family and friends, and today my mother is rehabbing in a skilled nursing facility, working hard each day to regain the use of her legs and return to her normal life. Every day brings another small victory and success, and her therapists promise her she will walk again. That is what we are cheering for as well.

My father is also a stroke survivor since December 2009, so we know how this goes in my family. The main effect of his stroke was on his speech, which is still recovering its former fluidity, but he walked out of the hospital one week after it happened and has never had any significant mobility issues. Because my mother’s mobility is mainly affected, she is likely to have some issues with it for years to come.

It is fair to say that my mom got sick gradually, then suddenly. What has smacked us all in the face, though, is the sudden part—how life as we’ve known it all changed in an instant, and returning to that life exactly as it was before is not an option. This has given us the opportunity to reexamine and recalibrate our relationships with each other, one by one. My brother and sister and I, always formerly at slightly awkward cross purposes in different ways for different reasons, are solidly united now in the service of a single mission: to keep our parents together, in their own home, as safe and as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. My parents, always close and growing ever closer over the years, have pared their priorities down to only one: being together.

We all have a lot of work to do to adjust to this new life, and not everyone is going to be ready to move forward in the same direction at the same time. We’re talking about the options for rehab, for recovery, for new living arrangements for my parents that could help to ensure their safety and comfort in the years ahead. There will be hard choices to make and some hard losses, but there will also be opportunities. Sometimes letting go is not so much about the things you lose but rather about the freedom you gain by no longer having to care for, maintain, clean, insure and safeguard all that stuff. My hope for my parents is that they will be able to let go of the things that no longer serve them, and in so doing they will gain freedom from obligation, risk and fear for as long as possible.

We are all cheering for that.

Bringing it home

I have once again spent the day traveling from one home (my parents’ house) to another (my house) after a 10-day visit.

Everyone in my family is facing different challenges right now. Bodies have aged and changed; relationships have aged and changed; kids have aged and changed. For some of us, simple pleasures such as eating and sleeping are nowhere near as carefree as they once were. Some of our faculties are fading to a greater or lesser degree. We have various aches and pains, both specific and vague. In some cases, professional ambitions are not being realized, and some of our dreams have had to be deferred so long that they might evaporate altogether.

In none of this are we unique, either as individuals or as a family. Everyone has challenges. Everyone has disappointments.

What I realized on my long, long drive from there to here is that just as none of us is uniquely challenged, none of us is to blame. Really, no one is. Life happens to us all, giving and taking and continually redefining “normal.” I have been struggling this past year or so to play the hand life has dealt me and be grateful for all that I have rather than upset about what I lack. My results have been, to say the least, uneven.

And when I go home, to “the bosom of the family,” as we say, I stop trying to put on a brave face and stiffen my upper lip to get through the days, and I just kind of dissolve into my insecurities and my fears sometimes because I know I’m in a safe place to do so. But I forget that everyone else is dealing with their own stuff, and that they don’t have the emotional or physical energy to deal with mine, too. I can be selfish when I’m with my family … not to mention needy and sniveling and grumpy and demanding. I am really sorry for that.


Image from

I am very fortunate to have a family that loves me anyway, even at my worst, and continuously keeps the flame alight for me at my best. It is for them as much as for myself that I get up and enter the fray every day.

Seeing red

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week in a case that challenges California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. I am not familiar enough with all the legal ins and outs to say what the outcome might be—whether they’ll decide that all 50 states must allow same-sex (or equal) marriage, or that all 50 states can decide for themselves whether to allow it, or what.

My hope is that the court delivers a unanimous ruling similar to the one they made in Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 case in which they struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. To me, it’s exactly the same issue: Only one definition of marriage should exist in this country that applies equally to all citizens, and individual states should not be allowed to decide which consenting adults can and cannot marry based on nothing more than bigotry and prejudice.

The arguments against what used to be called miscegenation were all the same as those against equal marriage: God never intended it and does not approve, it’s bad for the children, it will lead to the downfall of civilization as we know it. All bullfeathers of the purest ray serene, and everybody knows that … now. I hope that someday soon the vast majority of Americas will regard same-sex marriage with exactly the degree of indifference with which they now regard interracial marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is encouraging people who support equal marriage to change their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures to the symbol for equal marriage, which (naturally) is an “equals” sign:

equal-marriage1        equal-marriage2

The one on the left is the original version; the one on the right is the one the HRC is promoting for use this week. The red symbolizes love, which is what marriage equality is really all about.

I’ve been seeing a lot of red today as my Facebook friends and their friends have changed their profile pictures to the red symbol. I’m pleased and proud to see so many different people willing to publicly support equal rights for all citizens. This is a civil rights issue and a legal matter, not a religious or moral matter. Ensuring equal rights for everyone takes away no rights from anyone. If you’re opposed to same-sex marriage, don’t have one.

The We Do campaign organizes actions across the Southern United States in which same-sex couples are filmed going to their local courthouses and “requesting—and being denied—marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws. WE DO actions make the impact of discriminatory laws visible to the general public and illustrate what it looks like when LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered] people are treated as second-class citizens under the law.”

There are several videos of these actions available. The one below brought me to tears when an older lady plaintively asks the very young clerk, “Can you tell us what steps we might take to become full and equal citizens under the law before we die? Can you help us with that?”

That’s all that we’re asking for: full and equal citizenship under the law. I am very hopeful that this battle will be won before I die.

Oh, and by the way, I thought the red symbol was nice but not quite fabulous enough for my taste, so I am using this one instead:


Related: Standing up for family values