No Rhyme, No Reason, Just Random Thoughts

I haven’t been here to blog in over a year. Almost a year and a half actually. Not quite sure why. My husband mentioned to me recently that he missed my blogs. Blogging takes me into some very deep spaces of my mind. I think I go through seasons where those places need to stay locked so I can function. Then the door bursts open like a volcano and the emotions ooze in ways I can not manage.

I’m doing a Bible Study right now “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way”. I started it 3 weeks ago. God’s timing is always perfect. I look back on my life 15 years ago. I had a full time career in non-profit work. I had a 5 year old and a 4 month old. The future seemed laid out for me, for all of us. A year later our world was rocked. I thought it would be the end of doing anything worthwhile for me. I could barely care of my children, much less expand my sphere of influence.

As time went on it became clear that God had a grander plan for me, and that our rocked world refined me in order to carry it out. I took on roles I never thought would be mine yet somehow it came naturally, not effortlessly but sort of that “meant to be” role.

I spent 3 years caring for my Grandmother until she passed. We laughed, a lot. We argued, a lot. We joked, a lot. She taught my son how to properly make a bed with hospital corners. Apparently that lesson didn’t leave a lasting impression. Though she did teach him a bed should be made every single morning, so the tossing of the comforter counts, I guess. She taught him how to count coins. If he did it correctly he earned $ .79 to get a fruit drink at Cashion’s. But she didn’t share quarters, those were strictly reserved for gambling at her bridge games. Y’all she was Presbyterian, so of course she gambled. She also spent $2 on the lottery every Friday. I have no clue why anyone 97 years old needs to win the lottery, but ok! She was a character and I was the lucky one to spend some of the most precious years of her life with her. I was her caregiver, and she was my caregiver.

When she passed I was lost, for a very long time. The hole in my life was huge and the hole in my heart was huge. I’m not sure you ever get over the loss of someone that big in your life. I spent several years spinning wheels, trying to figure out life again. Looking back I see that it refined me. I have often said that epilepsy won’t define me. Instead it will refine me. Caring for my Grandmother refined me as well. Raising two boys has refined me and will continue to do so. Bless….

Three years ago I felt the nudge that I needed to step back into the role of caregiver. I was back in my element. Stretching my mind and opening my heart to places I had held secret for some time. It was a joy, a pleasure and a privilege. It’s how I do love in action. And now I’m back in that difficult space of grief. I opened up my Bible Study this morning and looked back on my notes from two weeks ago. This morning my view is so vastly different. I keep finding myself thinking it’s not supposed to be this way. Yet, I know, without fail, that it is supposed to be this way. It is just my aching heart that causes my head to shake and leave me speechless. God has proven to me time and time again that His timing is perfect.

Twice now, I believe I made life easier for people I loved beyond measure. A career in non-profit didn’t define me. It prepared me to understand the needs of people. Epilepsy prepared me to pay closer attention to people. Loving people until the end has refined me. My grief is huge, but I’m better for it, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Cheers! XOXO!

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, February 2019

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In Case You Didn’t Know

College freshman. Is my kid ready? Did I remember everything? Did they pack what I told them to?Will they wash their clothes? Will they wash their sheets? Did I get the right meal plan?Can they cook enough to sustain life? Do they have enough money for supplies? Will they go to bed at a reasonable hour? Will they get to class on time? Will their roommate want to grow drugs in the closet? Will they get something pierced?? Will they get a tattoo???

I am one year outside of all these questions, and a few more. Was I a wreck like many of you last year? Yep. Was I lost without my son for a bit getting used to his empty room? Yep. Did I miss the sound of his drums blasting throughout the house and shaking the windows? Yep. Was it the right thing to let him go and find the power to propel his own wings into flight? Yep.

To my mama and daddy friends as you tearfully, or maybe joyfully, pack up your kids, reluctantly releasing them into a new world, I want you to listen in to something very important. In case you didn’t know, YA DONE GOOD!

From the time kids enter our world we work tirelessly to make life the best it can be for them. We have dreams of all kinds for them. We get lost in the drama of each school year, worrying over signing reading logs, math excel, red cups during lunch, the premier of the recorder or wondering why no kid ever sees the bottom of their backpack. Then our top dog falls on the bottom of the pole again, trying to figure out combination locks, sharing a locker with someone who butterflies the lock, changing classes, elective courses, new classmates, selecting your own lunch and mom saying you can’t spend $10 on one meal. Blink three times and pat your head once. High school. Mom will be all over your case about grades and what one letter on a report card means. Blink once and touch your toes. Hold it there because they are about to start driving and we need extra blood in our brains to maintain calm. Blink two more times and pat your own back. Your child worked hard their senior year, on their senior projects, at their job, on college applications, suffered the agony of the SAT, the ACT and thrill or perhaps the agony of college acceptance or rejections. It is ok. All those little moments that seemed so bigly are now bits of a larger puzzle that is coming together beautifully.

In case you didn’t know, please remind yourself that you have taught your child well. Your child is ready because you lovingly and sacrificially placed each piece of their puzzle of life together to create a glorious tapestry. In case you didn’t know, your child appreciates all that you have done.

Now blink once and hold your breath for 10 seconds.

Did time stand still? Aw dang! We try so hard to make time stand still when our kids are young. In case you didn’t know, you gave them the courage to fly. Now, if no one is looking it’s okay to give yourself a giant hug, before you grab the kleenex and pack the car.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, August 2017

 

May I please be me? Please?

I started blogging years ago as a means to shed a mask and be real. I needed to let my story out, I needed to vent, I needed people to understand and I needed to stop committing Facebook fraud by only showing the good stuff.  I’m guilty of saying only what I think will not be attacked because I am a people pleaser. Oh dear, I just admitted it…I am a people pleaser and often it is the thing that causes me the worst heartache.

I haven’t posted a blog in a while, but I have many unpublished drafts. I write as a means to get it out, but sometimes I’m afraid to be real. I am afraid to admit my feelings to myself more than I am afraid to admit them to the world. Before my injury, I really thought everyone was genuine and sought to bring good into the world. After my brain injury I saw the world entirely differently. My brain functions in a different way than before, and people I trusted treated me differently. Twelve years later this continues to confuse me. I can’t recall how I used to respond. I only know how I feel now. Mostly, I’m scared. I am scared of saying or doing the wrong thing that may cause displeasure or even worse, cause people to turn their backs on me. My filters are limited, and my tongue is too quick. I feel like silence is safer, but it leaves me lonely and isolated. My need to please has limited my ability to live more fully.

I feel things deeply. This place I used to view through a glass half full seems half empty. It looks more like a berry bowl with hundreds of holes leaking water. I want to be involved in my church, but there seems to be no place for me in areas where I am most passionate. Our current climate makes me crazy. I want to be involved in my local politics and improve my town, but my skin is not thick enough. I struggle with the deep convictions I feel and meeting closed doors in so many places. Sometimes I feel like the berry bowl, just draining water, except there is no fruit left in the bowl when the water is gone. Relationships that I trusted have gone and left me even more skeptical of everyone.

More than anything, I wonder what to do now? With one child in college, it feels like it is time to make some changes. I want to know how YOU face change? How do you keep from committing Facebook fraud? How do you accept seasons that take people out of your life? I have been told to let things roll off my back, but that is not me. God did not create me that way. He created a feeler and a thinker, but golly sometimes it hurts.

So there it is, in black, white and purple. I put it all, well partially, out there. This is my attempt to stop being the people pleaser. This is me, feeling lonely, broken and without a lot of purpose. I sincerely welcome thoughts you would share with me about times like these that you have experienced. You may comment publicly, message me through Facebook or email me on my blog, gcembracingchange@gmail.com.

The irony of this blog, I’m not embracing change so well.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, July 2017

 

Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day

I don’t know why her death remains so hard for me to digest. Was it her smile, her wicked sense of humor, her facial expressions that told an entire story in one second, her never-ending need for a bed made up perfectly, her special love language with Hunter, her stubborn ways, her secret stash, her days spent reading the newspaper cover to cover or perhaps her special friendship that we discovered? I imagine it is all of these things and so much more. I just miss her.

This week I had a dream and my grandmother, known to our family as Emmer, was still alive. She was walking, without the aid of a walker, she stood a bit straighter and her hair was a little bit darker. At first glance, I did not recognize her, then she called my name. That deep voice with a southern twist was unmistakable. “Gatewood?” I fixed my eyes on her. She nodded her head and assured me I wasn’t seeing a ghost. She had just been gone awhile to get better. She was holding a bouquet of flowers and held them out for me to take. She said “Happy Mother’s Day” and I stared at her with tear-filled eyes.

I started waking up and was in that in between stage when you realize you are dreaming and coming to, but you just don’t want to leave the dream. My brain was fighting with my heart. I kept telling myself that this was a dream. The happiness I felt at the mere thought she was alive was something I could not let go of. I wanted to get out of that in between phase and dive back beneath the surface, where I could see Emmer. I remembered she would be 101 years old now and there was no way this was real. In that moment, nothing could stop me from reaching her again. I wanted to feel her presence and soak it in. I must have channeled her stubborn ways, because once again I was with her. We were sitting and talking. It was as if I were floating over my own body and Emmer and I hovered watching a conversation filled with happy tears, sad tears and a lot of her story telling, and rather opinionated facial expressions. And then it was over.

My alarm woke me up. For a split second I felt a smile on my face because I knew Emmer was alive. Gloom smacked me out of it and I realized it was a dream. I felt her loss all over again and it was intense. I almost felt angry that my dream had been so real that it made me grieve her death again.

Later in the day, as my mind continued to recall the images of my dream, I found peace. My peace came from knowing, in my innermost core, that I could not have those vivid dreams had we not had a deeply honest and genuine relationship. Sure we were blood, but blood doesn’t always connect you. What I realized was that my connection to her is just as strong today as it was when she died four years ago. Somewhere, deep down, I guess I just needed to know that she is still here for me when I need her.

Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day Emmer. MUAH!

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, May 2017

 

Wounds

We all have wounds. Some are visible, while others run so long and so deep we think we have dealt with them. Then, the unexpected pops up and all the hurt runs hot and red all over again. In these moments I begin to understand wounds in a different way.

Coming off of Easter we remembered the brutal wounds and torture Jesus endured. As death was overcoming “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'” (Luke 23:34). Jesus had wounds I can not fathom. He endured suffering that I can not imagine, no matter how many times I read about the crucifixion. I will not know the suffering Jesus took on as “He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit'” (Luke 24:46). Jesus took wounds and scars for me. This makes my head spin. More importantly, this was for all of us. There is so much to take away from the crucifixion.

If you don’t have some wounds, please call me, because I want to know your secret. I have yet to meet anyone without a deep wound, born by our own freewill, born by someone we trusted, born by someone we least expected, born by someone who didn’t intend hurt but scratched the scab we thought was heeled or someone who is still walking in sin. Truth is, each one of us has the potential to hurt others because we are human. We will fall back into sinful ways, no matter our faith, because we are human. If we are seeking Christ in our daily walk, then we may catch it through His guidance and walk back looking to Christ. Sometimes the hurt is unintentional. I believe that everyone walks around with a history of hurts. The change happens when we deal with those hurts. I am a work in progress. I remember the cross. Jesus forgave those who hurt Him. He wants me to forgive those who do not know (perhaps because they do not know they have scraped the scab).

I have wounds and try as I may, I am human. In my human sinful body, it is impossible to overcome my pains without asking Jesus every single day to help me. Like a strike of lightning, in a flash, things happen that take me back to my wounds. In that moment, I realize, though I may have mentally decided that book is closed, it is reopened and the emotions and hurt rise to my surface. I can sense moving to unhealthy thoughts and decisions. Warped as my brain is, these moments bring me back to the cross, learning daily how Jesus forgave, what we think as unforgivable and He loved.

I am no expert on walking with Christ. I am still a student. Sure, I worked with the local church for over a decade, but in many ways I was too secure. My security in Christ and my need for Him to be part of me each and every day was not tested as it is now as I adventure into the world. I need Him more each day and I must ask Him each day to forgive me of my sin of holding on to hurts.

I am a visual learner.  We have friends in our church who use sign language as they sing. When they sign “Jesus” they take their middle fingers to the palm of each hand. It strikes me every single time. Jesus Christ took wounds which run from the palm of His hands to his heart. He died on the cross without anger. He asked us to forgive.

I’m working on complete forgiveness, but I think it means that I make the scab visible so that I am reminded that I must actively forgive every single day. In that, I believe my wounds begin to heal. This is the hope to which I cling as I seek him. Every. Single. Day.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, April 2017

 

 

City Bus Adventures

I am not sure why I haven’t written about one of my most embarrassing moments ever until now, but my family insists this is one of the funniest things that ever happened to me, so I’m going to roll with it.

During my 2 year stint off the road I depended largely upon the CATS Village Rider system. It was always on time (which I have yet to figure out given the traffic around here) and more importantly, it could get me to and fro independently. Independence was something I treasured. I got a manicure every other week in a neighboring town, and boarded the bus outside my neighborhood and grabbed the bus home near a grocery store. Because of drop off time and pick up time, I always had a bit of free time before my manicure as well as after.

With beautifully polished nails, noticing a sunny afternoon, I sported my sunglasses and I headed to the grocery to grab some lunch to go. I perched myself on the roadside bench to eat my sandwich and wait for my ride home. In general, people don’t really talk at the stop nor on the bus. We usually have headphones in, riders are reading, texting or whatever we pretend to do so no one will engage us in uncomfortable conversation. Occasionally a rider talks on their phone but everyone stares since we can hear everything the rider is saying and that is just weird. Over the years of riding the city bus I have seen it all and I don’t think much about why the person is using city transit. I don’t assume they can’t afford a car, can’t afford insurance, don’t have a license, blah  blah blah. You get it. I had a family, a car and insurance but my health didn’t allow me to drive so I didn’t judge others…usually. I’m normal, or as close to it as possible, so I would never expect others to look at me. I thought there was an unwritten rule about riding the bus.

This day felt different from the minute I pulled out my sandwich at the bus stop. I tried to mind my own business, but somehow I felt like people were watching me. I have a problem. My face tells my innermost thoughts. My eyes tell it all. When I saw people looking at me strangely, my instinct was to roll my eyes, eat my lunch or catch up on Facebook. We boarded the bus and I sat close to the front. Still in my own world of focusing on the road and letting time pass, I couldn’t help but notice people were looking at me for an extended length of time. I glanced back, likely for longer than I should have, but I remained sheltered by my sunglasses that hid my insecurity. The bus neared my stop, I grabbed the wire to signal the stop and got of the bus as quickly as possible. I walked home, threw my keys and sunglasses in my pocketbook and life was great.

A couple of days later I headed back out into the sunshine. I reached into my pocketbook to get my sunglasses. Holy moly! One entire lens had come out of my sunglasses! My mind shot back to the bus stop and strange ride home. Glory, glory! I sat at the bus stop eating my lunch and then proceeded to ride the bus home in sunglasses with only one lens! OH MY WORD! The entire day replayed in my mind! I was responding to the strange looks I was getting thinking I was normal, but everyone else was right thinking I was crazy! I tested the lens to make sure I had not lost it completely! How could I spend half a day wearing only one lens? Much to my dismay, I realized it was doable. OH MY! Yep, I sat at a very public bus stop with half a sunglass, is that even a phrase? I road the bus for at least 30 mins making eye expressions with everyone glaring at me. I thought they were crazy and they were staring at ME because it was clear I was crazy! OH MY WORD!

If you see me out and my eyes are red, it is likely because I have been driving and poking myself in the eyes to be sure both eyes are uncovered. When I put on my sunglasses now, I almost always touch both lens to be sure I am as normal as the rest of you. HAHAHA! Don’t laugh at me, just laugh with me. We all have issues, some are just more visible than others.

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Copyright ©  Gatewood Campbell, February 2017

 

 

 

 

Well Dang

Some things seem too familiar, or maybe not. It has been over a year since my last seizure and perhaps I wasn’t quick enough to recognize the aura.

Several weeks ago I headed into the store for a quick pickup of ingredients to make chili. As I got to the back of the store something felt wrong. In my circus head I thought I would crush my phone in my back pocket if I went down. I placed my phone in my pocketbook and moved on. The sensation continued and I realized I had my glasses on so I placed those in the hard case and put them in my pocketbook too. I got to the sour cream and it was shaking everywhere. Determined, I tried yoga breathing. The shaking subsided and I grabbed the fat free sour cream. Feeling like I had this, I pushed my cart to the cheese section. Problem was that I could not walk steadily. So in my constant attempts to “do it my own self” (something I told my grandparents when I was about 5 years old) I bent over the buggy and threw my head into the basket. Self said to me “this is highly embarrassing so get up and walk.” I stood up and grabbed the handles again. Nope, not steady. I sat down on top of the cheese. Yes, on top of the cheese. I realized I needed to take an emergency seizure pill. As I sat ON the cheese I could see bottled water and thought I could dash over and grab a bottle, open it and pay for it when I left. I stood up. Then I doubled over inside the basket again. Well dang. Walking was out. I sat back down on the cheese. I threw the pill as far back in my throat as I could and gobbled it down. AHHH DANG! This is not good. I looked around for someone to call to. All I heard was spanish.

“You are ok. We are taking care of you. You had a seizure and you are going to be ok.”

I looked past the man speaking to me and into the bright round lights shining down on me. I realized I was strapped to a gurney and prepped to be moved to the ambulance. Well dang, really?? I just wanted to make chili. My mind wandered to my buggy with ground turkey, tomatoes, sour cream and oh yea, no cheese. I never picked that up. Ouch, my head hurt no matter which way I moved and my legs were barking!

“Hey I know that truck.” I was in the ambulance and I recognized my husband’s truck pulling into the lot. I told the medics my husband was here. I was overwhelmed with beeping and voices. What I wanted was to go home! Johnny came running to the back of the ambulance and told them I had epilepsy and he would take care of me.

Fortunately, I did not bust my head open and the medics released me into the loving care of my husband and our youngest son. Apparently he was in the backseat of the truck. I don’t remember. Some wonderful friends happened to be nearby and went back to pick up my van and get some more Tylenol. The smallest things mean the most.

It is what it is. Maybe I felt safe. I am safe, when I am careful and when I don’t overload myself. Epilepsy is a silent disorder. It is invisible. It strikes when we think it may and also when we least expect it, or when it is least convenient. I can not believe the stoic manner in which my husband is always able to cope with this. My children do not fear seizures but they are all too aware. Our youngest was in a class when he saw his dad come around the corner before class was over. Later he told me he figured something had happened to his mom. He wasn’t worried. He is always confident that someone will be there.

Turns out care was at my side within seconds. A friend witnessed the event but because I was already on the ground she didn’t realize it was me. I am thankful that she asked shoppers to move along and comforted to know that she saw the employees had called 911 before she had the chance.

You know what? This too shall pass. I have spent the last 11 years fighting this and I have no reason to think that it will ever beat me. Yes, I am dealing with reality that I wish I were not, but it certainly could be worse. Can you help? YES! Learn how to aid someone having a seizure.

The most important thing I need after a seizure is to know someone is in control and cares.  If you can be that person who looks into the eyes of someone coming out of a seizure and communicate love and care, you are a hero.

I am fortunate. I am a survivor. There is still no cure for epilepsy but millions of us fight it with the help of loving care around us. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Please take a few minutes to read, re-read and share first aid for seizures information. Knowledge is power and power saves lives.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, November 2016