Jul 102012
 

 

Last week, after announcing my latest disease –a sort of Lyme co-infection parasite called the “Frye Bug,” –  I asked the Monkees on our Facebook page to name him. We decided upon Alejandro.  We needed something we could stop and sing. And really, you can’t say Alejandro without feeling a tiny thrill wave inside.  Thank you, Lady Gaga.

The next day I received an email from a woman who has Lyme and Frye. These diseases have destroyed much of her life. She told me that I had done a disservice to people with Lyme by naming my parasite. She said making light of something from which so many people are suffering was offensive and irresponsible.

So. After three years of receiving messages from people I’ve accidentally offended, I am getting used to the drill of my reaction. It’s always the same.

I am surprised and hurt. Then annoyed, then defensive. We must go through these things, of course.

But I have to go further. Momastery is where I practice peace making. Peace making is an active, TOUGH process similar to changing your eating habits. It requires a complete analysis and rewiring of one’s knee jerk reactions. I think there’s a reason those immediate reactions are called “jerk reactions.”

So I got through my jerk reactions, which are always the same.

No one understands me.

This is MY BLOG.

This is MY DISEASE.

And then:

Well, sort of. But not really. It’s our blog, I’ve said a million times. And it’s a lot of people’s disease.

 

Growing Up, Bubba taught me that there are two human reactions to being physically or emotionally threatened. Fight or flight. We are wired to decide fast. Will we stay in the confrontation and FIGHT back? Or will we RUN away from the confrontation? Ignore it and leave it behind us? Cause that always works.

BOO to both of these reactions. I think there is a third option. I think in order to grow and to foster understanding and relationships among people I need to practice my third option more often.

I propose Fight, Flight, and Right. You know, because if it rhymes it means it’s true.

To me, Right usually means first- take a deep breath and wait.

Go ahead and have a jerk reaction, but not out loud. Or maybe have it with your best friend, but don’t spew it on the person who confronted you. Don’t fight. Take a mini-flight. But while you flight, think. Stay with it. Stay open. Look inward instead of outward. WHY is this upsetting me so? What can I learn from this? What is this person, this confrontation, this discomfort trying to teach me? No dismissal. No counter-attack. Slip on the shoes of the offended. Walk around in them for a while. Then sit down and take a good look at yourself from her couch.

I did all of that. And then I sent her an email immediately and apologized for hurting her. I said I needed some time to think about what I’d done and if I could or should have handled things differently. Her response to that email was so kind that it made me want to think harder and stay open longer.

I’ve been thinking for a week now. Here’s where I am with this.

I really DO understand her perspective. What if I had AIDS and was making AIDS jokes? My Lyme, My Frye- they’re my diseases, but not just mine. My condition is a shared condition, and I am grateful for that. I don’t want to be alone in this. I want to take care of the people who hurt in the same ways I do.  Since I’m a public-y person now, I have a responsibility for what I say and how I say it. I want to be careful. Full of care.

AND. I also understand that people handle the brutal in their lives differently.

I use humor. It’s an approach to life that I’ve thought through carefully. I don’t take humor lightly. I believe it to be a key survival and connection tool.

My humorous approach to my disease –  it helps me hate it less. I know that for lots of people, declaring war on disease and hating its guts is the best approach. It lights a fire under their precious bottoms and helps them Carry On, Warrior. But that approach, that FIGHT approach doesn’t work for me.

Ekhart Tolle said that when we declare war against anything, that other thing grows bigger and stronger. It fights back harder. I don’t really get that, I just believe it to be true somehow. And so I don’t want to be at war with my Lyme or my parasite. They will go when they have taught me whatever the hell they are here to teach me. So far, they have taught me that life is not about doing, but being. They have taught me deep compassion for people in all different types of pain. They have taught me to savor healthy days. They have taught me that I am surrounded by people who will take care of me. They have taught me gratitude. Not too shabby. I hope they’re done teaching me soon, but I know I’ve become better since the wise little bastards have arrived.

And so I don’t want to hate them. It takes too much of my energy. I will not be at war with my own body. I will keep laughing. I will joke. Because to me – laughing is not a dismissal of life’s pain, but an acknowledgement that we can live, even just momentarily, beyond pain. Laughter is proof that we walk the path we’re given any way we choose – whistling, if we’d like, in the face of perceived danger. Connecting with others through laughter is my favorite thing to do, and I will not wait until All Is Well to do my favorite thing. All is Never well. There is always something to fear. But laughter is a defiant dance in the face of fear. It’s a mocking of hopelessness. It says we are more -we are MORE – than our circumstances. This life- it is too important to be taken seriously. Our bodies and hearts might hurt, but our souls are in perfect shape, always. And laughter is from the soul. No matter how beat up the rest of our parts might be, the soul can laugh, because the soul is ALWAYS as healthy and whole and strong as it was on the day it was born.

But see, the woman who wrote to me – she did not know all of this about me. She did not know that I’d thought it through, that I’d made a decision about how I’d handle my disease. That it would be my path, different from anyone else’s. That it was not right or wrong, just mine. And she didn’t know that I understood that she has the right and responsibility to approach her disease in the way she was meant to, and that I respect and honor and CELEBRATE that.  I celebrate HER- for being such a Warrior- for fighting her disease and for standing up for herself and others, even to me.

If she’d never written, or if I’d have fought her back, or ignored her – I’d never have explored my desperate need and insistence upon laughter. I wouldn’t have understood myself the way I do now.

And we wouldn’t understand each other. A crack would remain where now stands a bridge.

 

Peacemakers cannot be aggressive, passive aggressive, or defensive.

Fight, Flight….RIGHT.

 

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all times have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we have thought to find an abomination, we will find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the Universe.”

-Joseph Campbell (via Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. GREAT BOOK- thank you Monkee Dan!)

Jun 272012
 

 

So, it’s 5am and I’m up after a looooong Lymie night. Leg pains and stomach pains and then tons of Alleve and then wicked heartburn from too much Alleve. I’m tired and confused and more than a little scared and lost.

But look, I’m here – I’m writing to you. I’m a little bleary eyed, but I’m here. Because we have to keep showing up for ourselves in the thick of things just to remind ourselves that we believe.  We don’t have to worry about being any good when we’re at our worst, we just have to keep trying. Because when people only show up at their best, it causes confusion and leads folks to believe that others are always strong, and sailing through life. That’s just not true. We gotta show ourselves when we’re all beat up and scarred, too. That’s what people need to see, much more than our shiny selves.

Can you tell I watched Soul Surfer for the fourteenth time last night? NEVER GETS OLD. Never, ever. It’s our family’s favorite. If you need a little inspiration, please watch it. At the risk of being grandiose, I know pronounce myself SOUL WRITER, since my body has decided to stop working. You may call me SW for short. Also, you will be happy to know that I have chosen a name for my parasite. Thank you for all of your amazing suggestions. I have settled upon Alejandro. I have no explanation for that decision. It’s just Alejandro. Thank you, Rebekah.

I need to give you some Monkee updates. First of all, this:

Claudia has her van. And I will cry as I write this but the first thing she did was get inside and have her friend and caregiver drive her to the airport to watch the planes land and take off. Why is that so brutiful? It just is.

Amy and Claudia logged 200 miles on the van the first weekend. She attended her son’s first 4-H meeting. She wasn’t able to be involved before –she had no way to make it there. And this might be the best news. She made it to her first doctor’s appointment in a long while and here is what she had to say about that.

“Thanks, Amanda. We put over 200 miles on the van since Sunday…. trip to Indy for the air show and again yesterday to go to the neurologist. Thank you all…bless you all… for giving me a life again! My neurologist says that I’m doing really well for someone with ALS and that the type of ALS I have (upper motor neuron dominant) is typically much slower to progress. All that means is that I will have more time to enjoy and be thankful for this great blessing.”

You did that. 5, 10, 15 dollars at a time- you changed Claudia’s life. Just by showing up! And by BELIEVING that your little offerings might make a difference. Loaves and fishes people, I’m telling you. Mindy update coming soon. It’s just as good.

 

Second update: I finished Carry On, Warrior.

You guys. I will cry again now. It was so hard. At first, I hated writing it. Because I was so used to writing to YOU that writing for the book felt different and strange. Like writing to no one. And I had to write about BIG BIG things in my life that I’d purposely never written about on the blog, because I didn’t understand them yet. BUT, I forgot that we don’t wait till we understand to write, we write so we can understand. I also remembered that I could just PRETEND to be writing directly to you- since I really was, anyway. And we finished it. We had twelve FINAL DRAFTS. The twelfth was the charm.

Now, when you are “done” with your book, what that really means in the publishing world is that you have one million more things to do and change and fix and create before you are really done. At which time you will receive your newest list of things to do to really be done. Like life.  But I’m done with Step One and we have to celebrate each Completed Step in life since we can’t ever REALLY be totally done till we’re dead. And we really shouldn’t wait to celebrate until then. SO — DONE, STEP ONE! Manuscript complete!  Every essay is there, as perfectly imperfect as each was meant to be. I wrote about all the things I thought I couldn’t write about. I just kept showing up and it GOT ITSELF DONE. I am starting to seriously believe that this is how it works. We don’t really have to DO anything. We just have to keep showing up and Letting Things Get Done. Except on days when we can’t show up because TOO HARD and that is just fine. Things will wait to get done. I had plenty of SORRY, TOO HARD days in there.

I really, really believe that you are going to love our book. It IS our book. I put every drop of myself in there and a whole lot of what I hope to one day be. I put all our love in it. I wrote the book I want my adult children to read and believe. I wrote the book I want YOUR children to read one day because I think it will help them breathe easier and LAUGH and open their eyes wider and be kinder to their beautiful selves and beautiful others. So that’s that. That’s something.

A few orders of business:

I’m getting more and more requests for Monkee See Monkee Do help in my inbox. We want to read every single one of your letters, but can’t unless you send your requests for help to: [email protected]. If you’d like to OFFER help, please send your message to: [email protected]. We have a team of Monkees who monitor that account. Otherwise it’s just me reading and reading and I tend to end up in the fetal position more often than is really acceptable as a grown woman. So if you’ve sent any requests to me during the past few months- please re-send to the above addresses.

What else? We don’t know what we’re going to do about moving yet. We’re thinking about taking a year Melton sabbatical in Florida. That idea still makes me want to tear out my heart and shove it down the garbage disposal because I know how many little things I’ll miss during Sister’s baby’s first year. But during the last 24 hours I have thought that there might be some blessings to that. I mean, I know you would NEVER believe this, but I tend to meddle. And maybe a first year without sister would help John and Sister rely upon each other more to keep this baby alive. That’s all we can do the first year, right?  I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I’m starting to relax a little about the whole decision, probably due to your prayers.

Sometimes I get so scared about making THE WRONG LIFE DECISION. Like I’m on that game show- what was it? Where you can risk everything you’ve already won for WHAT’S BEHIND DOOR NUMBER TWO. And if you do risk it all, there might be a CAR behind door number Two. WOOOT! OR there might be nothing but a big sign that says LOSER! YOU HAVE CHOSEN UNWISELY! YOU HAVE LOST IT ALL! And you must hang your head and leave with nothing and spend the rest of your life wishing you had chosen door number ONE! ONE, dangit!!!! LACES OUT!

That’s how I usually feel about big decisions. Like there is a bit RIGHT answer and a big WRONG answer.

But that’s not right. That’s not how the God I know would work. He would be waiting behind both doors. He will be ready to walk beside me on whatever road I choose.

And then if I decide to change roads, He’d change with me.

Chase and I talked a lot about that idea last night. He agreed it makes sense, so that sort of solidified it for me, since Chase is the wisest in our family.

 

Anyway-I just wanted to know that Lyme and Alejandro are not going to take me down. When I woke up this morning- there were twenty encouraging messages in my inbox  (THANK YOU)! One from a fellow Lymie included this scripture.

“I choose to believe the present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed in us.” Romans 8

You guys, I think I really believe that. Something down deep tells me that is TRUE. That this suffering is leading somewhere. Maybe even today- maybe even right NOW. Maybe someone is reading this and remembering that she doesn’t have to be perfect or even HEALTHY to live a beautiful life. That if she just continues to believe in herself, in whatever state she finds herself this morning – God will use her belief to reveal His Glory.

 

And for all my friends who don’t appreciate the Goddy talk. Let’s put it this way:

Keep showing up for yourself, in whatever little teeny ways you can  – and somehow-  it will be AMAZING.

 

I usually try very hard never to boss you around, but here comes some bossing:

Do NOT give up on yourself. If you don’t- I won’t. Deal?

 

I LOVE YOU. Thank you for coming here, to this place that brings me so much hope and joy.

 

Love G

 

 

Oct 042011
 



You are now entering Cliché City. You’ve been warned. When the goin’ gets tough, the Doyle/Meltons fling around clichés.


Today I thought I’d try to answer the G, how are you doing? questions. Thank you so much for caring.


About the loss of the adoption- so far, I’m actually fine. It’s funny, you want all of these things, and then you get sick and you realize that the only thing you really want is to be healthy.

It’s true that every once in a while I feel a little flabbergasted, when I consider the hours and days we spent on paperwork and the nights of lost sleep and the thousands of dollars and tears and prayers that we’ve used up on this adoption during the past two years. It’s strange to just – all of a sudden – walk away. It tempts me to wonder if all of it was wasted. But deep down I don’t think that any of our efforts to love or to follow our dreams are wasted.

One time an American visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta and looked around at the hundreds of people dying in the streets and he said to her, “You’ll never save all of them. You’ll never even make a dent. How do you continue this work when you know you won’t be successful?” And Mama T looked at him and smiled and said, “I am not called to be successful. I am called to be faithful.” And I think that’s a good thing for us to remember.

One of my best friends, Jess, sent me a prayer recently about how in the West, we are so focused on goals, on results, on outcomes. But we can’t control outcomes, almost ever, so that’s probably a waste of time. I think we can only be faithful, today, to ourselves and to our families . . . to our friends and our dreams, and at the end of the day, we have to let it all go. We have to quit worrying about what becomes of it all and just be grateful we had the guts to do our little part, as we understood it. And we have to try to remember that it’s better to travel than to arrive, anyway. I think I was faithful for the past two (six) years to what I thought God wanted me to do. I spent my whole mind, soul, and strength on that dream. And so I feel pleased with that effort, and I won’t judge the outcome. It’s okay. I’m a different person than I was when I started this adoption journey, and maybe that’s the point anyway.

It helps me to see stories LIKE THESE: to see my friends who started this adoption journey at the same time I did and are home now, raising their Rwandan angels. And to watch this story unfold...one of our own…a MONKEE.. in Rwanda, picking up her baby right now, as you read this. As I read these stories – through tears of joy and loss – I am reminded that when and if it’s supposed to happen, it does. There are no mistakes. I did not fall through the cracks, it just wasn’t meant to be for me. Not now. If it’s God’s plan, nothing can stop it, and if it’s not God’s plan, there is nothing you can do to make it happen. Trust me. I’ve tried everything.

And still – The universe is unfolding as it should.

My dad used to say to me: Life is what happens when we’re making other plans.

I’m not sure I really believed that completely. I sort of thought that you could write your own story. Make your own plan, make it happen. Nah- I thought. Life is not what happens to you….life is what you make it.

But now, in the fallout of the adoption and the Lyme and on and on . . . I have come to believe that both are true. I think Life is what you make out of what happens to you.

Lyme is what is happening to me right now….and I am GOING to turn it into something good, something beautiful and helpful. I read this quote recently . . . people can tolerate suffering, but not meaninglessness. That’s how I feel right now. It’s fine . . . I’ll be sick, I’ll heal, I’ll let a few dreams go in the meantime. I’m a big girl and I know that nobody promised me that life would be easy. But I’m not letting any of it go to waste. I am going to make it all mean something. Someday.

Maybe not today, cause I’m too freaking tired.

I’ve never experienced anything like what Lyme’s done to me during the past month. I wake up tired, and I spend my morning tired, and then around 2 o’clock I feel as if someone has placed one of those heavy bibs they use for dental x-rays on top of me, and all I can do is crawl up the stairs to bed. And when I get to bed, sometimes I’m too tired to reach for a pillow, or to roll over. Too tired to roll over. It’s true. A couple of times I actually thought . . . I’m dying, I am definitely dying right now. I have what seems to be out of body experiences. My body feels so heavy that my soul seems to hover above. And during these near death experiences I always have two thoughts: OH GOD. They are going to come to take me away and everyone’s going to see how filthy the bathtub is. And also, if Craig remarries someone who can cook I will be so pissed. I will HAUNT THEM. I will mess up all her casseroles.

I don’t know why these are the deepest thoughts I can muster when I’m near death, I’m just telling the truth.

So anyway, this Lyme Time has sort of brought me back full circle. I feel like a baby sometimes. I am learning how to take care of myself, maybe for the first time ever. I spent the first half of my life tearing apart my body, then the second making and feeding little bodies, and now, for the first time, I’m learning how to help my own body and soul thrive and grow.

So that’s what I’m doing over here these days. I decided to stop saying “I’m sick” and start saying “I’m healing.”

This is how I’m going to make sense of all of this – make it mean something.

Through my own healing process, I plan to learn what people need to heal. Because I believe that all suffering is the same, and that we all suffer from something. Disease, abuse, shame, depression, pride, anger, stress, loss, hopelessness, loneliness and on and on and on forever. And I think we all need healing. Every last one of us.

So I think that if I can heal, if I can unlock the keys to healing for myself, that I’ll be able to help you, too. I don’t really understand that plan completely yet, but that’s my plan nonetheless.

So far: this is what I’ve got. I’ve got a sign in my kitchen that says:

Deep Breaths

Take your medicine

Feed yourself

Water

Fresh Air

Sun

Bath

Friends

Yoga

Pray

That’s all I’ve got so far.

What are you healing from? And what helps you heal? Let’s help each other.