My Cuddle Bunny, Still.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” 
 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I wrote this post back in 2016 for Mr. Beard’s birthday and I wanted to revisit it and share these words out again as I approach our anniversary this week. I’ve shared eleven years of my life with sweet Mr. Beard and it has been glorious and messy and honest and wonderful.

I think it’s important to be honest about long-term relationships. There have been tough days, weeks, and even years in the eleven years we’ve shared. We’ve had times where we were so disconnected that I wondered if we would/should continue to be partners. We’ve had honest moments about if we are really giving one another what we need and what to do if we weren’t able to give the other what they needed. These were terrifying times. What if this doesn’t work anymore? What do we/I do now?

Long-term relationships are never easy and divorce isn’t a failure if we had/do end up in that spot. I suppose it’s weird to talk about these things on a blog post celebrating our anniversary. Or not, I think we need to tell the truth about relationships and how we change and they change over time. How it works until it doesn’t and then sometimes it works even better again. That’s our story. It works so good.

Humans are complicated creatures that change and evolve in the context of a lot of different relationships. The idea that we are supposed to be good all of the time is impossible and makes people believe they are doing something wrong. Life is hard. You will fight with people you love. You will question everything. You should question everything. You should examine all the parts of your relationships and make sure they are still healthy and fulfilling. It’s important to ask and be willing to hear the answers to these questions in relationships. Ignoring these important questions will catch up with you and it might destroy you and the people around you.

Happy Anniversary Sweet and Brave and Brilliant and Wonderful, Mr  Beard. Iloveyou. You are my home. I choose you, always.

“I didn’t fall in love with you. I walked into love with you, with my eyes wide open, choosing to take every step along the way. I do believe in fate and destiny, but I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway. And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you”
― Kiersten WhiteThe Chaos of Stars

THE CUDDLE BUNNY

I read a research study this week and it made me think of my relationship with Mr. Beard. Researchers in the 1970’s were examining how high levels of certain toxins would affect the health of groups of bunnies.

After weeks of injecting the bunnies with various toxins they were confused as to why all but one group of bunnies were getting sick. Under close examination, they found that one researcher was cuddling, petting, and loving the bunnies. The group of bunnies that did not get sick was the group that was getting the cuddles.

I understand that animal research is a necessary evil and that the cuddly researcher probably caused challenges for the study. But, sometimes when we are looking for a certain answer we find something else, something more valuable. In this study they learned, that love can literally save lives, even in the worst circumstances.

Well, Mr. Beard is my sneaky researcher. When life hits me with its best shots he grabs me up and cuddles the toxins right out of me. When waves of depression and anxiety take over he will cuddle me on the bathroom floor until I have the strength to stand on my own. He has always just known that it is not about saying anything in those moments but all about holding me tightly.  I know that his cuddles have saved my life time and time again.

So, Mr. Beard, my sneaky cuddly researcher, I am so happy you were born. Thank you for cuddling me through the hard times. I love you more than you will ever know.

“These are my favourite chords.
I know you like them too.
When I get a new guitar, you can have this one and sing me a lullaby.
Sing me the alphabet.
Sing me a story I haven’t heard yet.” The Weakerthans, My Favourite Chords

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If Death Were So Simple.

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.

CHINESE PROVERB

I work a lot of stuff out on the page of this blog. It’s cathartic to send words into the world and let them hang on the line and dry out a bit. This is complicated when my life overlaps so much with the lives of others and they don’t want to air their life on the public line.

This weekend I attended a wonderful family gathering regarding an upcoming event that I’m so very excited for (vague, I know but it’s not my story to tell…)

The question that kept coming up was if one of my family member’s was dead.

I found myself answering, “No, not really but it’s complicated”

This answer is not what people are accustomed to when they ask about life and death.

But, this was the truest truth I could think to say.

Then today, as I talked with people about my weekend someone asked if the same family member was in attendance at this family event and I just ignored the question. I couldn’t bring myself to offer up that answer. It’s too complicated for this conversation and this person at this time in our relationship.

Some people leave our lives in ways that feel like death long before they stop breathing. Some people leave abruptly and others fade out. Some people we push out and others push us out. The healthiest relationships always have an open door. If you don’t want to stay then please don’t – resentments are toxic. And, some people will go not matter how much you want them to stay. That is one of the truest truths I’ve learned of life.

On this particular day and ones like it, there was a bright red thread of grief and loss woven into the fabric of so many threads of love and life. To try and pull that thread out of the the fabric would destroy it all. The bright red thread belongs in the story just as much as the other threads. In fact, if you held this fabric up, you would see how it all fits perfectly together to tell a story of life, love, and loss.

Long answer to a short question.

Love.

“Oh from the first that the line got drawn
It was poisoning the land it was on
One red thread through the middle of a song
My only one
My only one” – Blind Pilot

The Sammy Lessons.

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone

– Maya Angelou

If you follow this blog at all, you are familiar with how my life imploded into absolute dust in 2010. Bryan thought it best to add a puppy to our life in the midst of all of this rubble. I hadn’t much experience with dogs before this so I was not prepared for the work that would come with raising a puppy. And, Sammy is not just a puppy, he is a special needs puppy. He is a complicated little creature.

One night, in 2010, when life was at its awful and worst, I was sleeping on the couch with this tiny Sammy puppy sleeping on my heart. It was such a powerful moment because I felt a sense of love and relief that I needed so badly to feel. In that moment, I was safe and I was okay and I was needed and I was loved. Sam is magical in that way. He always has a lesson to teach about life.

Today’s Lesson: 

As I sat sipping coffee, looking out on my backyard, Sammy crawled under the patio and got stuck. I screamed the typical “Let’s go for a walk” and “Squirrel” but all I could hear was him screaming that he was stuck. Sammy screams cut through my heart to the core.

I  immediately went into full blown hysteria and panic mode. I called Bryan but he was working over an hour away. He tried to talk me through what I needed to do but my brain wasn’t working right. I grabbed the drill and starting pulling up planks which was not working well because I’m not so strong and I don’t drill things.

At some point, I called a coworker and asked her to cancel meetings. I was in hysterics and she offered to come help. Then, my sweet friend Robbie came to help. He started to pull up planks and Sam decided that he wanted to pop out from a different area of the patio to say hello to Robbie. Sam was unharmed in this debacle.

Robbie went to work and I sat on the steps, in a white dress, covered in tears, dirt and sweat trying to gather myself to go to work. I called another friend to come over and help me with some things around the house so I could focus on work and she is there now as I am finishing up lunch at my office. She is sitting with Sam. I needed to know he was okay (even though I’m sure he is okay).

I also shared this horrifying story with my friends in a group text because I needed them to listen and love me. They did just that.

The lesson: I need help. I need support. I need people to be there for me. We all do. We all need help and we all need support. We need people to answer the phone and show up for us when we can’t do the life stuff alone. And, the truth is we can never do this life stuff alone. There is no point in trying.

I hope you have people who answer the phone when you call. I hope you have people who will tear up planks and cancel meetings and help you around the house when you can’t keep it together. I hope you are loved. If you don’t, you deserve that kind of love and support. I promise you do.

I hope the people that hold me in that space, when I covered in dirt and tears, know how much I love them because I need them and I love them.

Love.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

 

It’s You I Like.

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mistake
I’m not like anyone else I know
When I’m asleep or even awake
Sometimes I get to dreaming that I’m just a fake
I’m not like anyone else”

I’ve been running myself a little ragged the last few months. This probably left me in a vulnerable place as it relates to watching the Mister Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

I’m a super fan when it comes to Mister Rogers. I recently visited his museum in Pittsburgh and sobbed the minute I saw parts of his living room set from the television show. As a young highly empathic kiddo that felt all the feelings, Mister Rogers was a Godsend. Everyday, I sat in front of the television and he told me it was okay to feel all my feelings and I believed him. He saved me in this way. He saved a lot of people in this way.

What struck me about the documentary was the connection they made between Mister Rogers and the puppet Daniel Striped Tiger. His wife reported that she believed that Mister Rogers identified and expressed himself the most through this puppet. For those of you who are not familiar with the works of Mister Rogers, Daniel Striped Tiger was the most vulnerable puppet and when he was on the screen we were tackling the big emotions. As a kid, I loved Daniel, I related with his fears and anxieties. I wanted to be seen as a complicated human and not rejected for my insecurities just like Daniel.

I watched the film with my husband who is also a sensitive feelings human (I think all humans are sensitive feelings humans but my husband is brave in his openness about his feels). As a child, I didn’t realize the permission Mister Rogers was giving to men to release the binds of toxic masculinity and feel their feels as whole humans. As I sat next to my husband, both of us crying, I felt so grateful for the permission he gave to the young boys to feel all their feelings. We need more of that. Way more.

As Bryan (my husband) said on the way home, I’m glad we were alive when Mister Rogers was here. In these times of desperation and separation and isolation, I really wish we had someone brave enough to take the reins and pull us back towards love and connection and to remind us that love is what really matters. Maybe that’s our job now?

I think most adults are scared of Mister Rogers because he represents the true needs and vulnerabilities we all share. We all need love and connection and we are all scared that we don’t deserve it because we aren’t good enough. No one is immune from this truth of the human condition and he said it out loud. He saved us in this way.

“But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like”

Love.

My Brother: The Wind Beneath My Wings.

“Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings” – Bette Midler

Yesterday, I shared a beautiful day on a beautiful lake with beautiful people. The good life, as they say and they aren’t wrong.

Someone made a comment about how I helped someone with something and my brother said “Casey inspires another person” Interesting.

I thought about that statement the rest of the day and the whole ride home. I thought, maybe he doesn’t see himself very clearly. I won’t go into the details here, but my brother has faced adversity. Like serious, serious adversity AND he still loves. He loves it all despite it all.

He literally calls me once a week with shock in his voice and says “they just don’t care!!!” Like, he is literally shocked every time he interacts with (sometimes the same person over and over) and he realizes that they don’t care. It is inconceivable to him that they don’t care about what another person is experiencing. I don’t think he knows how much I love those calls. It is a reminder of the of the loving humanity in this sometimes dark world.

He also identifies with the underdog in everyone’s story. No matter the story, he feels compelled to defend and understand the person that other people might be making jokes about. He cares about people he doesn’t even know and it makes him really uncomfortable when anyone is being criticized, even if they aren’t around to hear the words. I don’t know if he knows that I notice this. But, I do and others do too.

He once tried to break a world record. On his spare time. And he almost did. He likes to focus on the fact that he didn’t and when he’s around I let him do that. But, when he’s not around I like to tell people about how he tried because it is the trying that matters when it comes to anything in life. The success is not in the breaking of any record but the trying and trying and trying and my brother is fearless in his trying.

I know that my brother tries to be a good man but he doesn’t have to try that hard. He is a good man and he inspires me. In fact, he is the best thing my parents ever did for me.

In my darkest moments, I think if he can do it so can I and so I do.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Love.