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The Courage Collision
Sometimes life sends coincidences our way & other times messages. We may notice them or completely miss them. When we are ready for a message I believe that there is no mistaking it when it comes. During those times when we get this tap on the shoulder, what do we do with that? It is all a choice. The same can be said of the causes that we choose to fight for with passion & energy & action. If something major has touched your life or the life of someone that you love dearly then chances are that your passionate cause is in that area. If we have a child with an illness or challenge (physical or otherwise) it is pretty natural to find yourself as a parent with an endless amount of energy & passion to effect positive change for your child & others with that challenge for instance. The cause hits our radar like never before.
During the week of February 22nd to Feb. 28th, a collision of causes that I have been very much behind (and at times in front of when necessary) “messenged” me in both unlikely as well as expected ways. Neither one of the passionate areas of advocation have to do with any of the chronic illnesses that I live with for a change. Our world can be as big or small as we choose to make it. I pray daily literally for the strength to never start to cave in on myself meaning either let myself become a victim of my illnesses but instead work every day towards more selflessness. It is the easiest thing in the world to complain about anything whether it is big or small. Someone right now is fighting for their life or their child’s life & would love to have the troubles that I have frankly. I get that & I get that big time. I don’t see the value in comparison in any significant portion of life. I can be sick & have complete compassion for others. At the same time there is no need to pretend to not be sick myself or be a faker in any way. It is really the exact opposite. The number of times that others have said to me that they feel they can talk to me because they know I get it & care is humbling. To be able to be our real deal with others is a gift we give ourselves & one another. There is a quote that I have always loved that says, “be yourself; an original is always worth more than a copy.” Are there times in life when we long to fit in and other times not so much? Each one of us answers that question for ourselves. As far as psoriasis goes I would shout it from the rooftops that yes, I would love to have the illusion of the skin I had just over 12 months ago again. When it comes to diabetes I can honestly say that I do not concern myself anymore with the things that set me apart from people without diabetes. If people choose to treat me like I am less than due to type 1 then that is “not my monkey & not my circus.” Type 1 has made me a tougher cookie that way but I am still a gentle soul. I believe in real & fierce yet gentle love. I believe in laughter & tears & everything in between. I believe in telling people that I love & admire them without my ego yelling at me,”what will the person think of me or do they think I am a wuss for wearing my heart on my sleeve?” I promise you that people in our lives want to know that they matter to us so please do not leave important words unsaid. Last month I remember reading a post on several of my friends’ Facebook walls that said, “don’t stand up at my funeral & share your feelings about me, tell me now while I am alive.” Every single time I saw those posts on friends’ walls I pushed the like button with enthusiasm. The most courageous people I know are the ones that go ahead & say the important words day in & day out. I admire that big time.
Here’s a wee light aside. It is an interesting time helping to raise a teenager. What a conflicted time that can be as the “kid” is not a kid anymore yet not yet an adult either. Our oldest son hit teenage hood with a vengeance in grade 7. That was a couple of years ago. He grew almost a foot that year. He & I share a love of writing. Matt has the gift for writing fiction as well as illustration. He amazes me with his abilities & I do not doubt for one second that we will see his books one day on bookshelves. It was a very good thing that during that grade 7 year that we chose to walk to school each day. For 20 minutes we would have a heated debate let’s say & be pretty exasperated with one another Monday to Friday for at least 6 months of that school year. To onlookers (including my husband at times) we looked a lot like the characters from one of the Bugs Bunny episodes. It is the one where the sheepdog (Ralph?) and the coyote walk “to work” with their lunch kits in hand, put their time cards in the punch card machine & begin their battles & then at the end of the day they put their time cards in the machine & say politely, “see you tomorrow Ralph” in a friendly way. That was kind of similar to Matt & I because by the time we reached the pathway to the school somehow we had no hard feelings & we both automatically gave one another a hug, said I love you & wished one another genuinely a good day. Eventually we worked through that stage I say thankfully. The point is that we did not leave the important things unsaid each day even during our sheepdog & coyote days. This year in grade 9, Matt brought home a paper that he had written & he told me excitedly, “Mom, look at the grade on this paper & it is about you” as he gave me one of his giant 6’4” hugs. There are no words to describe that moment. What I will say is that I am glad that he & I continued to hug one another through those coyote & sheepdog days.
Let’s get back to the 2 messages of the week of Feb. 22nd. The first one was from a very unlikely source. Our oldest son asked me if I would be interested in watching the academy awards on tv with him on Feb. 22nd in the evening. I will say that although I think that the pretend world of the celebrities is pretty flakey. The time with my son though is important though so I said, “sure” & put on a large pot of tea for the marathon of tv that evening. The one moment of profound “realness” came when the gentleman who won for screenplay writing gave his speech. In front of millions of people he shared that he had almost committed suicide a number of years ago because he felt so not normal & did not fit in. He gave the message of hope to strangers whose faces he will never know that if they feel wierd or don’t fit in to keep being wierd & then when they succeed in life to pass on the message of hope to others. You know already that I am a passionate advocate not only for diabetes but also for the cause of anti-bullying & suicide prevention. The second tap on the shoulder came from a more likely source. On February 25th I woke up & just happened to put on a pink t-shirt which is unusual during the winter months. That evening while I was watching the news I realized that it was pink shirt day, the day advocates for antibullying wear pink shirts in support of this.
Just like telling people around us how they matter to us every chance we make (not get, but rather make), the same is true for me of anti bullying advocation. Bullying is a day in day out problem that still very much needs meaningful solutions. We live in a different kind of world then the one I grew up in or my parents or grandparents grew up in many ways. With the presence of the internet there is a whole new level of bullying taking place in the world around us. If we have teenagers and they carry a cell phone that same cell phone that we may have given to them for emergencies so that we can keep them safe is also a potential weapon of bullying. I know that cell phones in our home do not go into our bedrooms at night for starters. There is more media attention regarding cyber bullying & that is a start. How about what we do with the situation when our kids come home & tell us about bullying happening during school hours? Our oldest son was bullied unmercifully for 8 years during elementary school. I will not repeat the whole experience again as last spring I wrote an entire blog on that already in my role of antibullying advocation. The great news as I shared then is that this same young man is now thriving this year & is himself now an advocate for those that are vulnerable around him. Now that is what I call doing something meaningful with his suffering. He knows how proud I am of him & how much I love him & he also knows that his “little mom” stands in front of nonsense even though we did not get the results that we had hoped for. Whether I see bullying occurring with regard to my sons or someone else’s kids or with adults, I will not tolerate it. Please never think for a minute that any of your advocation efforts are in vain. Sometimes it takes years or even a lifetime to affect positive change.
This young man at the Oscars had the courage to speak of something deeply personal in terms of his despair when he was younger. He said the words suicide right out loud. How many people are suffering in silence? Decades ago the world seemed to have a message to people to suffer in silence about depression. Have things changed? We each answer that question for ourselves. Is the world tolerant of some things and not others? Behaviours around us in the world would indicate that there is much conflict about what is to be tolerated & what is not to be. As a society we give lip service to the mental health awareness week each year & the anti bullying week as well. How about the rest of the time? Do these issues not exist the rest of the time? Is it our problem anyhow? The quote by Edmund Burke tells us that doing nothing is not okay. Burke’s quote is, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” If we realize that what we are here to do is to “do love” then the answers are pretty obvious. It is not ok to think less than of people battling depression. It could happen to any of us. I know I am grateful that I have the support system around me especially as I have been told countless times from my doctors that the combination of having diabetes & psoriasis makes me more susceptible to depression statistically. I am not a stat though & have always been a statistical outlier in most areas of my life so you bet I have a plan in place to remain an outlier here too. My heart goes out to the countless people living in silent suffering with despair. These people need a voice, dignity & for people to care enough to keep advocating. Yes my life has been touched by several loved ones who have found themselves in depression. When I was very young someone dear to me attempted suicide. Those were different times I believe where people had kind of an unspoken code of silence where depression was concerned. Has the veil of silence been lifted yet? This loved one did have family that loved them very much yet there was an unmistakable sadness about this person. The very good news is that this loved one went on to live a long life & passed away from old age peacefully with me sitting right beside them. I know that not only do I not think less of someone who goes through despair but I admire them when they reach out in truth for help. I did not set out to become an advocate for diabetes, depression awareness or anti bullying especially considering my voice was such a whisper for so long since I was incredibly shy as a young girl. We find ourselves though where the work needs to be done. We find ourselves standing up in the right places where we are needed. Each one of us needs to find our voice. Just doing nothing is not the answer. When I stand before God at the end of my days on earth, I want to be able to exclaim, “I did love!” And I know I am not the only one.
My heart’s hope for you is that you find that perfect collision of courage for the causes that you feel passionate about & roll up your sleeves, find your voice & do love. If you are painfully shy that is great because if this rascal within me can do this, so can you. If you don’t think you have the time or energy then just look to who & what matters most to you & I promise you that will change.
The suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255 in Canada. Be a champion & stand up for those around us that desperately need our encouragement and love. Love is a verb. Send love into the world. Next Monday’s sharing is “The Snuggly Sleepwalker.”