I Did What I Wanted To Do

I met that younger man that was fun and I jumped when he asked me to do anything.  He was a relief for that hole within that began with Don’s death.  He asked me to marry and I said “yes.”  A Judge married us during a spontaneous weekend of travel.  We returned to Portales the next day and decided it would be best to leave New Mexico since Don and I were well known there.  Agreeing to start over somewhere else, we shared our thinking with Dawn and Johnny and asked them to go with us. Dawn said, “No, I want to spend my senior year here.” Johnny’s answer was “yes” even though he would be giving up being the next Drum Major of Portales’ band.  His band director offered him a place to live so he could remain in Portales.  He said no.

I resigned from the mental health center that I helped build for the past ten years.  We had met every goal made ten years prior.  I resigned from all positions held in New Mexico and my newly appointed position on the National Mental Health Legislative Council. Next-door neighbors purchased our big house. My Portales family had a party for our marriage.  We moved to Abilene. 

I did what I said I would never do.  I left Dawn with relatives we loved in Portales for her senior year. Dawn made good grades, was a leader, and a cheerleader for several years. I missed significant events. Her problems began. She got into trouble for being late to cheerleading practice.  The sponsor stripped her cheerleader position, and I was not there for her.  I was also not there to help with other situations.  Dawn was struggling with filling her void. 

Johnny had problems that began with Don’s illness and his death. He would not communicate with us about feelings he was having as Don died and would hardly look at Don.   After Don died, friends and their fathers asked him to do things with them. He refused.  I should have seen how much he was struggling with loss.  His school principal confirmed this, and I got him a counselor. That helped until I began dating and chose to marry. 

This move brought more problems for Johnny.  We enrolled him in a large high school. After six unhappy weeks, we moved him to a smaller private school where he did great. Johnny auditioned for and was chosen to be in Texas’ High School Choir.  That success, too, was ruined. Six weeks later, a telephone call was received with an offer for work in Norman, OK.  That offer, combined with an attack on us at a “7-11,” brought about a decision to move again.  We enrolled Johnny in Norman High School, his third in one semester, just in time for him to take the SAT.  The counselor telephoned me saying he thought with changes Reagan made, and with Johnny’s high SAT scores, we should try to get him into college. He explained college would be paid for if he began in the coming semester.  However, he knew of no school that would take a 16-year-old. I had doubts but shared the counselor’s idea with Johnny, and he wanted to try.  Southern Nazarene University, Bethany, Oklahoma, accepted him, and he began.  He lived with us and drove back and forth to Oklahoma City.  

We went to Portales, NM, to watch Dawn graduate. She then left Portales and moved to Norman to attend OU.  Johnny wanted to go to the University of Oklahoma, so he would not have to drive to SNU in Bethany.  OU allowed him to enroll with his B average from SNU. Both wanted to live in the dorm. While in OU, he began talking to recruiters and approached me about his lack of discipline due to no father and his desire to quit school.  He wanted to go to the Navy. He finally convinced me. When 17, they picked him up, and he was off to Boot Camp.  We attended his graduation from Boot Camp. It was impressive. He was the Drum Major heading up their band. I was so proud.  After the Navy, he returned.

LESSON:  Do not run. Slow down and think carefully about decisions following a major loss, even a year later. Nurture self.

LESSON:  Oh yes, never say never. I said “I would never leave one of my children to have their senior year alone.”  I also said, “I would never put a child into college at age 16 no matter how smart they appeared to be.”

GIFT:  I kept faith through this!  A major dream came and I will share it later.   

I Regret What I Did

I watched Dawn and Johnny both from a distance while I was going through that bad marriage.  Johnny was in the Navy.  Dawn was at OU and working.  They could see I was making wrong decisions and was struggling.  I could see how they also were struggling in their lives.  Of course, it was easier for me to see what they were doing wrong and it was easier for them to see the difference in me. Eventually they each told me that I was really not doing well and they did not like what they saw. I knew they were so right.  

When I began working on my Self before I filed for divorce, I heard a woman at one of my first Al-Anon meetings say that if a person continues to attend these meetings, that person gets better.  Then about six months later, that person will see their children and others around him or her start to wok on improving life.  She said “Do not even say what they should do unless they ask, but watch what happens and what they do.”  That got my attention!  

It was true.  We had all three gone down in our lives after Don died and then more during my second marriage.  Luckily one thing we never lost was love for each other.  We also each had prayer and God. The three of us talked about the mistakes in choice and relationships we made. We also discussed what the abandonment done by me caused in them.  They say I literally checked out.  It hurts every time they bring that up, but it is so true.  I did that. I ran to try to fill that void.  I was hoping to give them back a family feeling.  Obviously that did not happen.  They did not want to be around that second marriage after they watched me in it.  I apologize each time the subject is brought up. I knew I made a big mistake.

I do believe when the pain I felt in the second marriage finally doubled me over in hurt, something in me rose up and changed following the prayer I made on my knees.  I finally got it!  I knew God did not want me in that unhappy marriage.  Nor did he want Dawn and Johnny to feel the way they did and make the choices they were making.  I knew I had to heal and I needed help.  I was fine physically, but could die feeling this way if I did not change me.  I know a person can change their clothes, change their hair, and put a smile on his/her face and it might look like change. However, there is a huge difference when the change is within.  My change after that prayer was within.  I realized if I left him, he had a choice.  He did not want to change within this marriage.  Perhaps he would choose to improve his life if he was alone.  It was not my responsibility to fix him.     

LESSON:  A major change in life affects children more than we realize. When I began to walk towards improvement in myself, they followed.  It took time.  Time does heal, but it greatly helps to have a healthy person working with you.  It takes a strong person to ask for help. The lesson here is “Become strong.  Find help to improve and watch what happens in life.”  Many of us make mistakes.  It is important to learn from our mistakes.  

GIFT:  We are all three survivors.  We each learned from our mistakes and grew. Dawn moved home to live with me so she could finish school after taking a year off to work.  Johnny returned from the Navy soon after Dawn moved in with me.  He chose to live with us. It was amazing for all three of us to be back under one roof together.  I believe I appreciated this opportunity more than anyone.  We were able to talk and share with no one around. We all set goals.  They each finished school.  Johnny even eventually received his Masters.  Dawn has had great success in the service industry.  Johnny has done excellent with GAO.  I also set goals for business as well as goals for other parts of my life.  Today we are all three in happy marriages and I have a bigger family.  Thank you, God!

Finding A Younger Man To Relieve The Pain

Later that summer I was doing a Board Training for our mental health center’s board.  Afterward, we went to a restaurant to eat that had live music. A younger man walked over, introduced himself, and asked me to dance.  He was a charmer, a good dancer, and fun to talk to. We laughed and laughed. To my surprise, the pain within diminished.  He telephoned my hotel room in Ruidoso the next morning early and wanted to meet for breakfast. I was excited and did so.  It all began.  He lived in Texas, I lived in New Mexico.  It was a long-distance relationship for about a year.  

Yes, I found a younger man that not only relieved my pain but was also more than willing to marry and help me reduce my assets.  He quit his job and came for a more extended visit than usual.  He met family and friends, and I said “yes” to marriage.  

I walked down the wrong path rather than staying put in Portales, NM, where I had two children that needed me, incredible family support, a great home, a high position in the community and state, and was known in the mental health field. I was the first woman ever elected as President of the New Mexico Mental Health, Drug Abuse, Alcoholism Council.  The National Mental Health Legislative Council requested that I be a representative as a result of our Council’s writing and educating legislators that passed a comprehensive mental health act for New Mexico. 

Instead, I wanted to run away and fill up that void inside of me I could not get rid of.  I hoped the inclusion of him into our family would bring back a family feeling. I chose that wrong path when I faced a fork in the road.  

Dawn remained with relatives in Portales to finish her senior year.  My new husband, Johnny, and I left New Mexico and initially moved to Abilene, Texas.  In only a few months we moved to Norman, Oklahoma, where I had gone to OU to school in my past.  Johnny went with us.  None of this felt good, but I kept pushing back signs I began receiving on the first night we married.  

It was not long before I realized I was in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Because of my internal programmed beliefs, I remained.  I was non-judgmental about others getting a divorce, but I could not believe I had done this, and I was certain I could fix it.  I had made my first marriage of seventeen years work through difficult times  of no money, schooling to Ph.D., health issues, Don moving out for campaigns, our house burning, and cancer.  Nothing worked in this marriage.  

I used to teach “researchers estimate if someone remains in an abusive relationship for two years, they also become sick.”  Professionally I have always succeeded.  Now I was sick.  I was married to a habitual liar.  I had not discovered the truth, but could feel every lie.  I had abandoned my children to date him, spend time with him in Texas, and then to marry him and move away from New Mexico.  I felt like I had given him everything.  

Lesson:  I made a big mistake.  I, however, still believe every marriage has a purpose.  It teaches.  When we make a mistake, the key is to learn from it. I went to work on me as this marriage brought me to my knees. It would have been so much better if I had moved through the void, made no decisions, and worked on me until I liked myself single and was fine alone.  

GIFT:  I gained “wisdom” for my future.  I understood how an awful marriage feels. The pain of this marriage was much worse than the pain of death.  It was two different feelings.  The feeling of rejection came with this marriage.  I did gain a master teacher for “what to not acquire in my life ever again in any relationship.”  It woke me up and forced me to study my Self and move forward in a way that I would learn how not ever draw someone like him into my life again.  He looked so good “before we got married.”  Until I had this marriage, I thought all marriages could be fixed.  

I Did What I Had To Do

It was bad enough for us with Don being in and out of the hospitals, having two surgeries, staff infections, and then finding out he had cancer all along. I was working, driving back and forth to the hospital in another town, and trying to take care of Dawn and Johnny.  Once in awhile they stayed with relatives, and other times they had sitters, and as they got older, they began working on me to let them stay alone if I was not going to be gone more than a few nights.  

I thought I was there for both of them, but I was not.  Looking back, I was emotionally unavailable. I listened.  I asked questions.  I told them what to do, and we all just kept going.   Don began having stomach problems. When he felt better, he filed for Congress without telling me. He campaigned, worked, and his health issues got worse. I helped, but he lost.  He had a surgery, was feeling better, and then was under duress from those in Washington wanting him to run again. He said “yes” and actually lived in another town for one more congressional campaign.  I was working, taking care of Dawn and John, and trying to see Don on the weekends during both campaigns to help him.  

Dawn and John went with me some weekends, but did not like to do that.  They usually had sitters and their activities.  We were living in a rent house we did not like. We found a house the three of us liked and I purchased it. I traded land we had originally bought to build on sometime in the future for the down payment. Dawn and Johnny helped me move us to a home we liked that I purchased while he was gone. Then we telephoned Don and suggested he come back as soon as possible to sign the loan.  

It got worse for the three of us after Don died. There was only one parent to depend on. We were all three doing the same running, running away from our own pain.  I did not realize I was running and I did not notice what was happening with them.  I felt alone. They felt like they lost their Dad and, to some extent, they lost me. They each began acting out in their individual ways.  I was acting out in my own way.  Teen years are hard without all of this trouble.  

LESSON:  Stay “in the present” as much as possible. Throughout Don’s stays in the hospital, congressional campaigns, his dying at home plus all that comes afterwards, I was just trying to make it.  I later saw that I was “emotionally unavailable” for Dawn and Johnny. 

Filling the Void

It took about two weeks to regain energy to get back to work. Dawn and Johnny went back to school almost immediately.  I was alone.  People were gone.  Many people shy away when someone has cancer and when someone dies.  They do not know what to say.  I actually telephoned a friend during Don’s illness and said, “Where are you, Linda?  I miss you.” Her response was, “I cannot handle seeing either of you right now, but I will be back when it is all over.”   

Back at work, I spent time writing grants, doing budgets, and presentations when requested.  Many wanted “Positive Thinking Seminars.” I kept trying to be positive for children, employees, seminars, and friends.  Since I was on regional and statewide committees, I traveled in my work.  I would leave at 4:00am and be at a Santa Fe meeting at 9:00am.  Dawn and Johnny had to get ready for school. I would telephone to make certain they were up, but they were on their own as they attended school, extracurricular activities, such as band practices, cheerleading practices, and had dinner, etc.  The meetings were usually all day, and I would be home late at night.  We went to church and family events, but both had jobs, sometimes worked on Sundays, and could not join me. Since Don died, I looked the same, but was not. Church was difficult.  I could hardly stand to be with a couple and turned down friends’ invites often.

When a female friend without her husband asked me to do something and Dawn and Johnny were out with their friends or at a school activity, I generally said “yes.”  It was better than sitting at home by myself. I would leave and then want to be home. One time when I was gone a few hours, Johnny had a wreck.  He was home alone when I got there. He was not hurt, but had to go through the pain of a wreck, talking to police, and the towing of his car. With no cell phones at the time, he could not reach me. He was barely 16. I felt bad when anything like this happened and I was to there. I would go somewhere, my children would come home and feel like I had disappeared even though I wrote a note.  That affected them.

We tried to keep going without their Dad, so we went snow skiing a few weekends during the winter, something the four of us used to do and loved, and then I talked two women into forming a Co-Ed Scout Troop with me. We arranged to take our group to Philmont Scout Camp for an eighty-mile backpack trip in the early summer.  That was challenging and fun! 

I felt better on that trip.  Back home I kept a smile on my face, but would take walks and think.  Wondering why I kept feeling this way within, I looked for books that would help me. That was late 70’s and I could not find any that fit.  

Lesson:   Time helps.  Give yourself permission to grieve. Pray and/or Meditate. Keep watching for the small things that bring relief from the aloneness feeling.  Nurture yourself.  Buy yourself a rose.  Treat yourself to a special meal. Go to a movie. Make yourself your best friend.    

Love and Peace Within and Without

 

Young people of all colors are truly upset about where we are as a nation. They are upset about inequality, injustice, our politics of lies, a wider gap between the have and have not’s, killings in schools, the coronavirus and its necessary shut down, no money, and so much more.  We are not helpless.  

Remember that each and every one of us began as “a thought from God.” We are designed differently, but each of us has a cell of God within.  That cell within is connected to an invisible cord and that is connected to our divine source. The soul and the cell enter with our very first breath. When we pay attention, we might feel that cord tug right below our belly button when we are about to make a decision that is wrong for us.  This feeling is “when we know in our gut” to not do something.  Do we listen and pay attention or do we override that tug and do what we want to do or what a friend is trying to convince us to do?  I have not listened at times and suffered the consequences later.  

What can we do to help?  We, ourselves, can stop stereotyping people.   We can train ourselves to see beyond the outer shell and look within instead. As we become used to seeing deeper, we will begin seeing the goodness within and that person’s light of God within. By doing so, we pay it forward.  This is an opportunity to practice love, practice listening, practice being kind, and practice being gentler with our words and actions. As we practice, we will find ourselves using more positive words as we speak, words of encouragement and understanding, words that bring forth our goodness and theirs, too. We will have more love and peace in our own life, plus we will automatically be an example of hope. 

John and I have a motto.  “To Love Is To Love All.”  

Loss Was Close

During Don’s last few weeks, I made a request: “Don, please ask God and Jesus to give me answers while I am here on earth.  I do not want to have to wait until death to receive them.”  He responded, “That is not the way it works.” I came back with “I disagree.  I am just asking you to do this if you have a chance.”  He finally agreed.  He must have asked, because answers slowly came.  Answers initially came through dreams. I will be share this with you later plus stories.  

LESSON:  Death brings more empathy, compassion, and understanding for others that experience death. These blessings received help me turn around and help another in some way.  

His funeral was great.  I was not expecting so many from everywhere!  Many papers as far away as Arizona had picked up the news of his death and he was on the front page of many.  He would have loved it.  

LESSON:  Communication in the family with the patient is vitally important through the entire ordeal. There was no hospice at that time. I did it.  And I treasure the discussions we had and that he was able to have with our family.  Because he wanted to die at home, I learned how to do the shots and we discovered that he did not need to be as sedated as he most likely would have been if he had been hospitalized.  

Through this entire six months of Don’s cancer, family living in Portales, family from Oklahoma City and Pauls Valley, and many others would show up or call and help in some way.  People I did not know and do not even know now helped complete the house we thought we would complete with us doing the work.   There were many I did not know.   

Thank you for reading my blog!  I love writing it!  

Preparing for Loss

On our last trip to M. D. Anderson, we discovered Don was going to die within six weeks. As the doctor left, the phone rang and my aunt said “Dawn and Johnny are fine, but there was a fire and your house burned.”  I turned to Don and shared this news.  Then I asked, “Do you care?  His reply was “No, do you?”  I answered, “No, I don’t care”.  We told my Aunt that called “We do not care that the house burned, but we are coming home tomorrow.   

GIFT:  What happened was huge.  In one second, I internalized “Relationship in life is what is important, not anything we own.”   

I have learned that every prayer turns into a gift.  Sometimes the answer is “no.” I focus on God’s unexpected gifts to help me through whatever difficulty is facing me. It may be as simple as a smile meant for me from someone on an elevator.   I take note.  That might be my gift for the day.  

GIFTS: The fire in our home brought a friend that was head of ENMU’s ROTC program.  Merle and some of his ROTC members arrived right after I pulled down a bedspread with soot all over it and got Don in bed. No soot under the covers. They wanted to share an idea with us.  “We would like to move your family into the partly constructed home Don began before his cancer.” We listened and agreed that would be good since fire had damaged part of our home and soot was everywhere else. They planned to move us first into our bedroom that relatives and others surprisingly worked on while we were gone.  Next they would clean the soot off all that could be saved.  It was amazing to us that they thought they could do all of this today.  Don lived in his house a few weeks before he died.  That was a huge gift for him and an easy move. 

ANOTHER GIFT:  A few days following our move into the unfinished 4,000 square foot home, I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door and the woman standing there introduced herself.   Smiling, she said, “Susie, do not cook anything for you and your children for supper. From now on, every meal will be brought to you no matter how long this takes. I was so very grateful and surprised. 

God does bless us.  

Change and Loss

We all know one constant in life is “change.”   We are going through forced change right now with the coronavirus moving among us. Since I have been through some past difficult losses in my lifetime, I want to share what helped me through each change, one was a forced loss and the other one, I chose.  I discovered lessons and answers with each one.  God was amazing and sent me unexpected help through both situations. 

We have followed the path of the three stages of change with the coronavirus. We gained awareness of a strange virus in January and suspected something was wrong.  Our attitudes were affectedas we learned more.   Fear, anger, depression, blame, and self-pity still affect many that are either staying at home or being a front-line worker.“  Then when we moved to acceptance, we each made a new plan took action.  These past life changes may also show the three stages.

My first husband and I married in 1963 and had two wonderful children in the first three years.  We were both achieving in our professions when he began having health problems.  I suspected something was wrong.  He kept trying to ignore it until a trip to Mayo Clinic brought the result:  Cancer. Six months later, he died in 1979 at 39. 

I had been doing talks on change for a long time as part of my role at the mental health center I helped build in New Mexico.  However, when we learned he had cancer and he would not live more than six months, I began crying could not stop.  Several days later, I called my office and asked my assistant to go through all of my files and see if I had anything on change that would show how long I would be in each of the three stages of change.  She found nothing.  

Lesson 1:  It takes as long as it takes to go from one stage to the next.   It is different for everyone.  Many get stuck in the second stage.  It is important to not get stuck there.  If you notice you are staying in this stage for a length of time, find a support group or a counselor.  I, of course, did not do that. I was running a mental health center and thought I was fine. I was not.  

Lesson two:  Grieve completely.  Perhaps that is why they say “do not move from the home you are in after a death for at least a year.”  For me, I had just kept going.  I had work, presentations, and two children that were now rebellious teenagers.  I did not take time to grieve or heal.  

Lesson 3:  Teaching positive thinking seminars right along and trying to always be positive in front of Dawn and Johnny was not good for me or them.  If going through this again, I now know not to hold tears back. If I needed to cry, I cry.  That would have given my children more permission to grieve and share.  We all three were struggling.   

Next, I severely messed up for our family.  In 1981, I met a man that made me laugh.  He was a relief from the pain I ignored. living far from me, we saw each other only once in awhile. This man I shall not name was always on his best behavior at those times.  If I saw a negative trait, I brushed it off and thought I could fix it and all would be okay if we married.  He asked. I accepted!  My second marriage began.  We landed back in my home state of Oklahoma. 

Each year of the next five years of this marriage worsened. I wondered if his self-esteem improved, would he improve?  Ha!  I kept trying.  What happened to all of that relationship stuff I taught in New Mexico?  Nothing worked.  My fear he was dating others was true. His emotional abuse techniques increased. I had insomnia, was afraid to leave the house due to what I might find when I returned, and was losing my self worth. Our beliefs and values did not match. I filed for divorce.    

Lesson 4: Find a counselor or someone you can trust if you need help.     I found a marriage counselor for us. He went twice. I continued and then visited some 12-step groups.  The surprise came with all I learned in the twelve steps.  My eyes opened.  Life improved.   

Lesson 5:  I cannot fix someone else. They have to do it themselves.  I can only fix me. If a relationship is good 80% of the time, stay, if it is good 50%, stay and get help. If 80% is bad, find a counselor or support group.  That helped me gain the courage change a believe and leave.  Do not file until you see your part in the situation.  After all, I said “yes” to marriage.   Close the door.  Open a door to new possibilities and a personal transformation!

Commitment

Years ago while going through a very difficult time in my life, I made an appointment with a counselor.  This was four years after moving back to Oklahoma and I was in my second marriage. I had never seen a counselor.    It felt funny to do so after building and running a comprehensive mental health center in New Mexico.  The counselor I chose in Oklahoma City kept giving me hints that I might like trying a Codependency meeting or Al-Anon.  That made me mad each time, but I followed his advice.  After trying both, I chose Al-Anon.  The same thing happened with a possibility of blogging that happened years ago when I decided to attend Al-Anon.  Everything got in the way of my blogging.

I made it to two meetings of Al-Anon and felt much better.  And then every time I was ready to leave for a meeting, something happened to keep me from getting there.  After missing three meetings, I committed to myself “I am definitely going to the next meeting!”   Sure enough, a gentleman knocked on my door as I was picking up my purse to leave for Al-Anon.  He wanted products that I needed to sell!  I said, “I have a meeting and encouraged him to come back later.” He responded, “I plan to buy over $1,000 worth of products.”  I had been making lots of prayers and felt like Spirit was watching to see if I was serious about my commitment to find answers to draw a better life to me.   I am so sorry. You see, I must attend this meeting, but I will be back in about one hour.  Please come back.”  Luckily, he did.

Years later, a man sitting next to me suddenly began visiting with me. He said, “ I want to show you something about commitment.  Then he motioned to the door.  “See the door?  Go open the front door partway.  I did. “What do you see?”  I described what I saw and what I heard.  Then he said, “Now close the door and come in again, but open the door all the way.”  I did so. “Now what?”  “I see the entire room plus others in the room.”  He then responded, “It is the same with commitment. Most people only partially commit. One must commit to Self before committing to another and until you fully commit, you do not see the whole picture. A promise can be easily broken. Always commit to Self first before committing to another.  So I am committing to this blog today and to you.  Then together we will see the result.