September 30th, 2014

rainbow heart

Being Grateful

I just got done reading Carmen Tarleton's book, "Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed". For those of you who aren't aware, Carmen was the victim of an attack by her ex-husband, who broke into her house, beat her with a baseball bat, and doused her in industrial lye, leaving her with scarring over 80% of her body, including her face. She has since been blessed with a full face transplant; if you'd like to read more, her website is here: .

I am just coming out of a dark place in my life, where I've witnessed adopted family taking a turn toward hatred and fear, supporting the Tea Party and all they stand for. I also just came out of a tooth abscess, something I seem to get around the same time every year; most of my teeth are missing or broken due to calcium loss associated with various medications I've had. I needed to read about someone inspiring, someone who was capable of showing the world that one can come out of literal Hell and find meaning in life.

I have multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, depression, and various other things associated with those conditions. There are times when I forget to be grateful for what I DO have, and concentrate more on what I've lost. This time of year was one of those times.

Although I have lost part of my sight in the past, I have it back, and I didn't need surgery. Although I've had a brain stem lesion that, were it any bigger or in a different place, could have killed me by stopping my heart or breathing - I'm still here. Though I don't have a pretty smile anymore, I do have my skin which is not plagued by the awful scarring of a burn victim. I have my own face, which works pretty much the way that it should. I can blink, smile, kiss. I can see and hear. Though there are days where I feel weak as a kitten, I am still mobile. I can still walk and move, even if that's limited by nerve damage and pain.

Reading Carmen's story put my own situation in stark relief. It made me think of all the little things most people take for granted - smooth skin, lips that work, a jaw that works, the ability to turn one's head, the ability to see, hear, taste, chew. It reminded me that despite my having incurable disease, I can still appreciate what I do have, because there are many who no longer have these things.

One of her biggest messages had to do with forgiveness, about not holding in the negativity so many of us do, when we feel someone has wronged us. I just went through a period of thinking about my recent past, before I moved to California, where I allowed people to mistreat me and had to learn the hard way to say "no". Although most of these people have never expressed sorrow over how they chose to treat me, I forgive them, and I do it not for their sakes, but for my own. I need to leave that negativity behind, and move forward.

The hardest thing for me to forgive is how I was stolen-from roughly 3 years ago. A house guest took rare and irreplaceable silver coins and other items of similar value, and walked out of my house with them. I sensed something was wrong but I did not stop her. The oddest thing is I blamed myself for a long, long time for not listening to my gut and stopping her. It's odd, because I did nothing wrong. I didn't ask her to steal from me. Just because I couldn't stop it doesn't mean I did something wrong. I had to forgive myself. I am still struggling with forgiving her for her actions, but I am confident I will get to that point, eventually.

It is sometimes hard to explain to friends and family just how my mind works, and how much is going on "in there" as I try to figure out where my life is headed now. The one thing I can say is I have never had a bad ulterior motive when dealing with others, even if they thought that I did, based on their experiences with other people. It's not my fault they think this way, nor is it my job to "fix" that. That's something they have to "fix", and it has to do with forgiving and letting go of that past negativity. MY job is to continue to be myself and share the goodness of my soul with others.

I have accepted that I am a conduit for Positive Energy. I accept that I've always been a Balance-Keeper. My "role" in this life, as far as I can see now, is to help counter the humongous tide of negativity - put forth by politicians, rich people, and those who hate - with positive energy, with being grateful for what we have, even if we're financially poor, with sending genuine love to others, even those who are hard to love. I may be just one person, but it starts with one, then two, then twenty, and so on. The more people who dedicate their lives to countering the negativity and restoring a sense of balance, the faster it will happen.

It is beyond my understanding why anyone on the poor end of the income scale could believe in - and vote for - anyone in the Republican or Tea Parties. At the same time, I can use my empathy to understand how the people in those parties use hatred and fear to distract good people from the real issues at hand, and while I seem powerless to change their minds, it's not my job, really, TO change them. MY responsibility is to be grateful and share that love and gratefulness with those who are receptive to it, and let the rest figure it out for themselves.

I had cause to recently thank Michael, my roommate and spiritual companion, for getting me out of a profoundly negative situation when I lived in Wisconsin. It wasn't till recently that I truly realized what I had been experiencing, there. No, not all of it was bad, but enough of it was that I needed to leave the situation. Michael offered me that chance, and I took it. While I miss the beautiful state where I grew up, I do not miss the pain I left behind.

Michael is more adapted to deal with the negative aspects of our political system and what it's doing to this country, than I am. At one point, I wanted to be more like him, and face down the things he chooses to on a daily basis. While this has taught me to say "no" more often and when I should, I am not like him, and I will never be like him. He deals head-on with the worst, and I do my best to counter the worst with positive. In that sense, we're a team, working on the same things but from different angles.

I am also grateful that it's likely I will outlive my parents and other ancestors. Both my biological parents, and my stepdad, were alcoholics. I went into Alateen early on, and later, Al-Anon. I also went into individual therapy as well as outpatient group therapy and, while it was hard, I plugged away at it and succeeded in reversing the odds that I would end up alcoholic like my parents. I do smoke, but not nearly as much as either parent, and not in the house. You might say that getting multiple sclerosis turned out to be a godsend - it made me take better care of myself, in physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ways. I am 54 now and my parents died in the 60-62 year time frame. I don't suffer from the things that eventually killed them, and so I see myself living well beyond that "deadline". I am also grateful for that.

I have forgiven those who mistreated me during my time in Green Bay. In the end, the experiences taught me how to be personally stronger, and take better care of myself. I have forgiven the two I was still in contact with, who have succumbed to the fear and hatred the Tea Party puts forth. I hope that some day they will return to the principles we all once shared, but I do not put expectations on them. That's not my job. My job is to go on and surround myself with beneficial energies, which, in turn, make it possible for me to be beneficial to others.

I am grateful for Michael, far more than he knows. I am grateful for the incredible people I've gotten to know through my experience with virtual reality - people I otherwise wouldn't have known, as most are in Europe. I am grateful that I am alive, breathing, seeing, hearing, and moving. And I am grateful for people like Carmen, who remind me that it's all a choice, and it's all worth it.