Resumé

I was talking to a sweet friend of mine from work today. She and her family have been through some trials lately and are still firmly ensconced in The Middle. 

The Middle is the worst.

Seems The Middle isn’t just a tv show.  

(Photo credit Buzzfeed Community)
It’s the place where you can’t seem to get your bearings. The Middle is where you tend to get boxed in by your circumstances. And it seems like it takes forever to get through.
I am very familiar with The Middle.

This is usually where I lose things: joy, hope, perspective. It’s the space where I can get awfully wrapped up in what I’m seeing. What I’m feeling. 

During our conversation I began thinking about the choices we have when we’re in the dreaded Middle. How, when I have been in The Middle, I have sometimes felt like there were no choices, that I was just stuck. But it dawned on me: one choice is always present, even in The Middle.

Choosing joy. 

 (photo credit lostbumblebee.blogspot.ca)

The middle is a difficult place to do this though. Let’s be real, many of us start looking at our circumstances and feel as if this place has overstayed its welcome–that’s frustrating. When you’re ready to move on from The Middle but The Middle’s not finished with you yet.

You know, on paper my family is not only a little weird, if I look at the facts objectively, we’re not that impressive. At first glance, our family resumé is a one-pager with large font. There is a cute toddler, a strongly-opinionated four year old girl, an eight year old with some focus and behavior stuff going on, a twelve year old with an eye rolling issue, a former military guy as the husband/daddy of the house with medical records out the wazoo and an under-employed lawyer/piano teacher/mildly regionally successful author.

On paper, we’re not so hot. 

 (photo credit Mashable)

Despite this resumé, I am trying to lead the way in some of our choices. I am trying to show my kids–even in the early morning before I’m fully caffeinated–how to choose joy.

Extravagant, relentless joy.

I fail a lot. For instance, yesterday. All. Stinkin’. Day. 

 (Photo credit Pinterest)

But I remain persistent in my quest for choosing to live a joyful life no matter what the medical records say. Despite the school testing and the ADHD psychology testing. Even through upcoming potty-training and temper tantrums and slammed doors and eye rolls and financial difficulty and bad news and VA appeals and doctor appointments and parent teacher conferences.

I’m trying to put one grateful foot in front of the other and shine some hope and light into other peoples’ lives when they’re in The Middle too. 

Or in The Beginning, where their grief is so raw and fresh from loss it seems as if there is no relief. 

Or The End, where relationships have come undone and the bags are packed and the boxes are labeled.

There are always reasons to get stuck looking around at your circumstances. Believe me, I know. Stuck is a place I know well. Grief is a hole I have crawled into. Circumstance has convinced me I was finished.

But joy.

That flashy, glittery Vegas-like sensory overload of joy that I have felt in my darkest place. It was a choice. And I could choose it because I have faith in a God who just won’t quit. Working on me, loving me, taking me under his wing. 

 So no matter where you are in your chapter–The Beginning, The End or that pesky Middle, your story isn’t over yet. And if your family resumé is a one-dimensional, unimpressive one-pager at first glance like mine, take heart.

Choosing joy turns those medical records into a medical retirement, the ADHD testing into opportunities to help our son learn better, that under-employment into a way to help with finances while having the flexibility to be there for my family.   

 (Photo credit The Odyssey)

Keep working on your story. And if you choose joy along the way, well, there’s no limits to what your everyday can look like, beginning, ending, and The Middle.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Sharing Your Story

Everywhere I turn there is something about PTSD today. Good information, good people sharing hard things. I have to admit this makes me a little weepy. It makes me feel things.

I’m usually all about feeling things and as a generous oversharer I am no stranger to telling our story with emotion. However, this new chapter of our story, the one about PTSD, is the hardest to tell. Maybe because we’re still on the journey. Maybe because we barely survived parts of it. Maybe because for awhile, I couldn’t find the strength to talk about it; I was using all of my strength just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other to try and protect our babies from seeing behind the curtain.

This story of hurt and shame and pain and worry and fear must be handled delicately. I have to parse out bits and pieces as I can. My dear Mr. Wonderful served our country and came home with PTSD, or The Mad Cow as we call it. And to be respectful of where he is in his healing, and where I am in mine, I must dance around and through the darkest days we’ve faced as a couple.

Our story hasn’t been woven into completion yet; therefore, you’re only going to get the parts I am able to talk about right now. I hope as you read this and my future pieces on PTSD, that you keep foremost in your mind that we are working hard for healing, that Mr. Wonderful doesn’t deserve anything other than praise for his bravery and efforts and that this is all really hard.

Please go easy on us.

Being open and vulnerable in a concrete way like writing things down and sharing them is terrifying when you have some seriously deep wounds. Writing alone is like the picking of scabs. But the more we tell our story, the closer we come to healing. And maybe the more hope we can give someone who has yet to find their way out of that dark place.

I’m not sure how much I can talk about yet. Let’s just say 2013 was the year everything went to hell in a hand basket. I was pregnant with our fourth child and Mr. Wonderful was slowly losing his grip on his, at the time, undiagnosed PTSD. And then he lost his grip all together. 

Watching a loved one self destruct right before your eyes is both surreal and excruciating. Time slows down, each moment taking up the space a week occupies when you’re trying to keep a loved one alive. As for my part of our story, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I was just trying to stay pregnant, trying to keep my kids fed and doing my best to make sure Mr. Wonderful didn’t kill himself or someone else.

He became so unrecognizable to me during that time that it felt like I was living with a sad, numb, angry, scary and unpredictable stranger. 

The PTSD gave him such terrible nightmares that he didn’t want to sleep. So he would drink to be able to sleep. He would drink to function. He would drink to forget. The on-base doctor prescribed pills for anxiety and depression but mixing the pills with the alcohol became a near fatal recipe. Which led to a near fatal suicide attempt. Someday I will write more in depth about these things. But for now, I’ve picked at these scabs to the point of bleeding again and it’s just too much.

We have come a long way by the grace of God. In one minute, my life could’ve been so different. And I am happy to say that we’re not where we used to be. We’re not finished with this journey but we’re moving forward and on the mend. And I’m grateful for every day I get to wake up next to Mr. Wonderful and see my kids and my little miracle baby. And I know that somehow, in some way, our story is going to bring someone hope in their darkest hour.

Gratitude, trust, prayer, faith-our family wouldn’t be possible without all of this. Thank you for reading this, and if you know someone who may be suffering from PTSD, please share this and the suicide hotline number below. Tell them not to give up. And don’t you give up on them either because there is always hope. We don’t need to lose anyone else.

1-800-273-8255 (America’s National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Writing on Purpose

Since we’ve moved, I’m trying to find my go-to writing spot. My favorite place, Cuppies & Joe is now too far to dash away to whenever I find myself with a bit of time to write.

So I’m auditioning writing spots. Today’s is an epic fail. With four kids underfoot all the time, I need a place with a relaxed vibe, good coffee, a comfy place to sit. The coffee shop I’m in today is for people much cooler than I am. And probably younger.

I’m sitting on a hard metal bench listening to techno music while sipping tea. This is all wrong for me! For some, again those more hip and awesome than the likes of me, this would probably be writing nirvana.

However.

Sidebar: however is just a fancy schmancy way of saying but. I like to throw it in every once in awhile to convince you I’m an authentic writer.

For me I can barely think writerly thoughts. My mind keeps getting caught up in the loop of the nonsensical words and techno beat. Pretty soon my writing is just going to look like beep beep boop. (Nod to WordPress.com there.)

Sigh.

I have to find my spot quickly. I’m supposed to be working on the follow up book to My Pink Champagne Life with a finished manuscript by, oh, January-ish, and my muse, my mojo and my main writing area are missing! Anyone seen my mojo?

Here’s the thing I would encourage all writers with however (there’s that fancy but again): write anyway. Write even when the place is wrong. The words won’t come. The time is short. The To Do List is long. The kids are home. The coffee is cold. The Internet is down. The laundry is calling.

Write when you don’t feel like it and write when you do. Write as if your fingers are on fire. Write when you’re sick and when you’re well and when you feel as if you have nothing to write about.

I promise you this: if you get in the habit of writing no matter what, eventually you will end up with usable words on a page that can turn your dreams and hopes and promises to yourself into that book or article or story that you were meant to write. That only you can tell.

My only advice to writers is the same advice I give to my three year old: 

Use. Your. Words.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015