Monday, October 19, 2015

Dead Words & Dead Leaves

I've been reading a book by a Texas author, who I am a fan of--Libba Bray.  I've come across the word autumnal several times in this book.  Autumnal is not a new word to me, though not particularly common.  I love this word, though, as Ms. Bray must as well.  I like the sound of it.  I like the thought of it.  I certainly like all things autumnal.  This is my favorite time of the year--the weather, the colors, fall baseball, football season, and Thanksgiving season.  I love leaves and trees and all that they represent to me metaphorically and literally this time of year.

I want to be autumnal.  I want to be seasoned with maturity and wisdom.  I want to glow with color and life, a sweet respite for others to find shade under.  I want to be one who is not afraid of the present or the future.  I want to be one who stands tall, displays strength, steadiness, and ability to withstand the storms and changes.  One with scars of past storms, one with history, one with a story to tell.

It's been a long time since I've posted.  So long that I forgot my password...which I am notorious for...but here we are again.  I originally started this blog because I'd been asked to, prompted to, called to.  And writing is always something I enjoy, something healing.  I use it to express, educate, enlighten and encourage.  At the beginning I had a lot to say, a lot to process around the last 3-4 years of hard, and I had learned a lot from our struggles and challenges as a couple, as a family, as a woman.  I posted pretty often initially.

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I've been word dead for a while now.  The little posting I did in June and July 5th, the last time I posted, were out of necessity to communicate information more than a need or desire to write. Really, I haven't had the energy or heart to write in months.
 There has been a lot more dead than just my words.

It was about this time last year when I began really feeling the symptoms of what I know now is the autoimmune disease, Sjogren's Syndrome.  I kept blaming my symptoms on a fibromyalgia flare, allergies, and the like.  Nothing worked that normally had. I was unable to workout at the gym any more. I spent most days going back to bed after I took the kids to school.  (I still have to do this often.) In November, I caught the flu.  I recovered, but never felt good.  In early December, I began getting really sick. We kept thinking I was just having a really bad, off year. I was on antibiotics and steroids for the majority of the next 6 months.  Bout after bout of bronchitis, constant coughing, sore throats, vomiting, debilitating pain and exhaustion. I battled sores in my mouth, painful cracks in my tongue, and not being able to eat much or well.  I switched a couple of doctors, went to some specialists, and finally back to my rheumatologist. Finally a biopsy in my mouth of salivary glands gave us the answers.  As a result of the Sjogren's, I now also have been experiencing peripheral neuropathy in my feet and hands--the death process of some nerve fibers.

Fighting this constant illness, having regular and multiple tests, having regular rheumatology visits to monitor the disease process, and visiting many specialists to evaluate and treat complications and effects of the disease uses almost all of my physical energy and much of my emotional energy.  Keeping up routines for the kids, making it to my appointments, and taking meds have been all I've had in me.  I have pushed through to make it to the kids' events.  I've let go of events and functions for which my family and kids are not directly impacted and which drain my energy in ways that don't benefit my family.

While it is helpful and somewhat reassuring to have a diagnosis, to know there is something real, it is also a life sentence that has to be accepted.  And then a life has to be mourned.  This disease has no cure and rarely goes into remission.  I had to grieve that I might always feel this way.  I will definitely not teach again.  I can't be on my feet for very long at all.  Some days I can't get through a shower if I get my body out of the bed.  I was a really good teacher.  I was a really good advocate.  I was an expert in gifted education who was sought out.  I wrote curriculum, led professional learning communities, spoke to parent groups and teacher groups.  I grieved the loss of this before when fibromyalgia took over my body. I had hoped and trained to present for NAMI, touch the lives of families with mentally ill children and teens, and use my skills to help others. I've had to decline all requests for me to present. Here we are again.  Another death.

During the last year, there was a death of a family, a church community--one that I thought was mine after nearly 3 years there.  Events occurred as changes were also occurring in the church which showed me how my children and I were really viewed by a particular minister, a prejudiced view on which we were handled and treated, ultimately because of the lack of faith of my husband.  I tried addressing the minister involved and then the pastor as things continued to unfold and the picture became worse and worse.  Then silence, from a church that preached "we don't leave church, we work through things, we stick it out."  Since last Jan/Feb I haven't heard one word from anyone--not the small group I'd been a part of, people I thought were friends, the ministers I tried to work through this with initially or any other church leaders.  Silence.  A big death.  A death of a church family for us, a death of our beliefs about this body of believers, a death in our collective faith as a family.  A death that occurred as my health was already falling apart.

Just weeks before I was finally reaching a diagnosis for my health conditions, and undergoing a lot of tests and stress and while I was still really, really sick, I received an email from a close friend.  A friend who'd walked through a lot of our hell the last few years, a friend I thought would always stick.  This friend had withdrawn over the year.  The withdrawal was hard to take, but I was too ill to do much about it.  I couldn't keep that up, too. (People don't realize that kind of illness saps you psychologically and emotionally, on top of physically.) When the friend reached out by email during an awful time, another death blow was dealt as she leveled many accusations, was completely unaware of what I was dealing with health-wise (because of her withdrawal), and then bailed.

Right at the same time, a precious former student of mine was killed senselessly and randomly by a felon with a gun who fired into a crowd of college students in College Station.  I attended her funeral the day before Mother's Day, the only child of her parents.  That was a hard loss to take, a shot in the neck.  I have another student who is a quadraplegic who was also shot in the neck.  Shots to the neck and 2 different kinds of death.

I constantly battle the death of my faith after dealing with all of the above, one on top of another. Prayer life?  Dead as a door-nail.  I battle the death of Keith's faith still.  And the threat of death to the faith my children still have.  It has been hard to maintain a deep faith in a marriage in which we are united in everything else, very connected, and also very much in love.  It is especially hard to maintain my faith with no support from a faith community.  (I might have one of those if I hadn't lost mine and then been too sick to attend much or connect to others...)

All of these things have killed
my words,
my faith, and
the leaves with any beauty left on my tree.
It's been a winter in my heart and soul the last few months, despite the sunshine and Texas heat.

My dear sister-friend, Sarah, likened me to a mighty oak the other day, one that may bend and sway but never breaks.  I hope I can be worthy of that faithful image, one I love.  I definitely do not always feel strong or grounded or rooted.  Yet, I seem to have an indomitable spirit that just keeps standing back up.

There haven't been any leaves on my tree for a while. 
A new season has been approaching.  
I feel its stirring.

Image result for small leaf clip artBeginning BSF this year and studying Revelation, I initially thought...WHAT AM I DOING HERE!?  I don't know what I believe about this, the Bible, and I certainly do not fit in with traditional evangelical believers!  Agh!  But.  I have asked for prayers from my group.  To see and hear from God.  For the broken places to be healed, hard places softened, for leaves and fruit to grow again.  To find some energy and purpose where I am now, with my limited physical capabilities.

Image result for small leaf clip artI'm finally experiencing some relief from prescribed meds and some experimental treatment.  I find a little more energy, less sores and cracks in my mouth, and that I'm learning how to balance and try to plan for rest I need to prepare for activities and to then recover from them.

Image result for small leaf clip artI'm praying again. It is still difficult for me to pray for myself, but I have stormed heaven for my #TeamEvans family, even as we've buried Cindy. I pray for my sister-friend, Sarah, her brother Mike, and their family pick up after losing their dad 2 years ago and their mom, Cindy, last week.

Image result for small leaf clip artI'm going to a NAMI training this week to be a parent presenter for PTA-type groups as we work to make parents and teachers allies in addressing mental illness in our youth--something I've experienced from both sides--as a parent and as a teacher.  These presentations are shorter, and I am hopeful I will be able to participate in this way occasionally.

Image result for small leaf clip artI want to be autumnal, an autumnal oak tree with beautiful, colorful, changing leaves.  I don't want to be spring.  I want to be a mature tree, one proven and wise.  I want deep roots which keep me from blowing around.  I also want to be one who who is not afraid to let go--of what is no longer needed and what is already dead.

Only as I let go of all of that which has become dead in my life in the last year can I grow again.

It's time to grow.