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I haven’t posted a blog in a while, but I have many unpublished drafts.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

 

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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

Ready, Not Ready

Like millions of mothers and fathers all over the world, I find myself totally elated and completely overwhelmed by a swollen heart and tear-filled eyes as I think about my son, a college freshman, getting ready to leave home. I am so ready and so not ready for this.

Seriously, can you ever actually be ready to loosen your grip on your child and let them start the next chapter? I’m feeling like it may only be possible to be ready after you have already let go. I think it should not come naturally. All his days, weeks and years are the foundation for the next step. We can’t be beside him this time. Instead we are behind him, hopeful, prayerful and mindful that he is smart and we trust him to be wise. Oh, the places you will go. OH, THE PLACES YOU WILL GO! Yes, he is a high school graduate, he can vote and he can be drafted but he will always be my son. No, he is not a baby and certainly does not want nor need to be spoon fed anything, but when my mind wanders to what our home will be like in a month…sigh. When our youngest was a baby and started walking we used to knock him down. True story. Oh yes, we were excited parents and we were proud, but we knew once they start walking they keep going and growing up so fast! Just like so many other areas of life, we work hard to get to a certain point and when we are on the verge of that cliff the last step can be the toughest.

He is ready and I know that. This is his time and I am the same excited and proud parent ready to see what his future holds. But golly I’m not ready for his empty room, his silent drums nor his brother missing the wrestling matches, front yard baseball games and pick up basketball.

I think ready, not ready is right where I should be. We do all that we can to prepare them for this time, but there are certainly no how to books for watching them go. As I remind him frequently, no matter how old he is, he will always be my son. Ready or not, I can hang on to that grip forever. So I guess it is time to say “Ready, Set, Go!” and then I can hide my eyes and dry my tears once more.

Copyright Gatewood Campbell, July 2016

Changing Clothes

Yep, it is that time of the year! Graduation! My son said recently he thought the year would go by very slowly and he could not believe how fast it went! I have held my emotions in check pretty well, remaining so thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate this occasion. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude that Justin has the chance to get a first class education, close to home and complete high school. We are thrilled that he will start college this fall. We are incredibly fortunate to have a son who has worked hard to get to this point.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove past the high school and many kids had dismissed after exams. Hundreds of kids flooded the sidewalks. As I looked at them chatting, texting, checking their phones for goodness knows what… the floodgates opened. I realized my son would not be on the sidewalk next year because the time has come for him to move on. Holy moly! Where have I been the last 13 years? I thought back to his “Star Student” day in Kindergarten when he wrote a book about himself and I got to come share class time with him. I remembered his beloved first grade teacher, Ms. Loeffler, and going to read a book he had chosen for his class. It was a Tuesday morning. That afternoon I fell in Target. After that our family reevaluated what was important in life and soon after I became a stay at home mom. I will never forget the complete joy Justin had the first day he got off the bus at home and not at after school care. This, yes this, these times helped to mold and shape him into the young man he is today.

I remember so well finding out I was pregnant with Justin. Like all new parents, we set up the nursery with carefully chosen furniture, colors and bedding. We had waited so so long for this beautiful child. I lost a baby before Justin and we prayed for a very long time that God would give us another. We did not find out whether I was having a boy or girl and we kept our name selections a secret too. I will never regret the joy my husband experienced surprising everyone in the waiting room after 11pm with news that our boy had been born. We passed him off to my grandmother as the first to hold him. She deserved it having blown off a bridge game to be at the hospital when her first great grandchild arrived. We announced his name, Justin, because we liked it and middle name Willis after his paternal great grandfather. I could not wait to put this precious soul into his carefully selected going home outfit, with cap and socks of course. Someone probably should have told me a mid July baby won’t have issues retaining body temp, but the outfit had to be complete, right? You must have a cap and socks to match! The clothes mattered so much!

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I don’t want to belabor the point that this chapter has come to a close. I want to celebrate this victory and the next chapter that he begins. Like so many of you, we are remembering with joyful tears the years that have passed and are ready (not ready) to move on to the next chapter. I am in my living room now listening to my son drum. In a few months his room  will not be so loud and we will miss that. We are also incredibly thankful that a plan is unfolding for his next steps. In the meantime, his drums, oh how his drums beginning in the 6th grade emerged as his passion. Blame it on me I reckon. I insisted he take band to learn to read music. Now he is writing music and playing in two bands and touring to different venues in NC to play. He was the baby for which we prayed, the child for which we prayed and now the young man for which we prayed. Last fall he sweated bullets as he diligently worked on college applications. Apply early folks! It will save you so much agony during Christmas and keep you out of the general application pool! We anxiously awaited letters in February. Mom brag moment…he was 3 for 3 on college apps! He was thrilled to accept the invite from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte as his first choice. Dorm life awaits, and mom made scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast do not. (Giggle giggle)

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We traded in the carefully chosen baby clothes for an equally prayed over and carefully selected cap and gown (not really… Herff Jones still owns the rights to all graduation gear. That is the only thing the same since I graduated back in the ice age.) My tears flow because I am thankful that my son is experiencing this precious step in his life. I am proud of him. I am proud that he loves his brother unconditionally and his mom and dad unconditionally. I am proud that he took care of me so many times when I could not. I am proud that he took care of his brother when I could not. I am proud that he has successfully held down a job to pay for his own expenses from the time he could drive. I am proud he has kept school as a priority and maintained good grades. I am proud because he just knows what he needs to do and will step in and do it. As life took detours, I am proud that he used his life experiences and dedicated his senior exit project to the need for more epilepsy awareness and government funding. I am proud that he has discovered his passion through music and has found a way to share himself with the world! Above all else, I am proud that he has Jesus front and center in his life and is not ashamed to share his faith in Jesus Christ.

We will miss him next year in ways I can not begin to fathom. Support meetings may be necessary. I am as proud as the day he was born. God gave us this child and this child has given us so much more than we ever could have imagined.

To my son…You were so little when you were born and your sweet yellow outfit was way too big for you. Your clothes have changed since the day you were born and we are just as thankful today to see you in your cap and gown that you earned. Yes, the cap does indeed matter, even if in the heat of mid June, you need the cap! Your cap and very long gown await your 6’3″ body. My heart is so full because I am so excited for the world to get to meet the person we know as our son. The time has come to open the doors to your world and share you. This isn’t closing a chapter. It is just the beginning and I am honored that you call me Mom…

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, June 2016