Christmas Eve, Slivers, and PTSD

Marie came up to us after church that year and asked if we’d like to join their family for Christmas eve.  Sure we said, it beat sitting in our little rental house 1000 miles from home, missing family.

As it turned out, Marie had also invited Nancy, Karen, and Scott,  all singles, also away from home over the holidays. Marie had the gift of hospitality.  Those are still some of my favorite Christmas memories…

I remember coming into Marie’s kitchen, the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, dimly lit Christmas lights,  scented candles..

It felt like I’d just stepped into a Hallmark card movie…and we were part of the story.

Pause.

As I sat in a big stuffed chair after dinner, visiting with Sid, (Marie’s husband)  I absent-mindedly picked a callous on the tip of my pointer finger.   It had been  numb for months.

All of a sudden,  out popped an inch long wood sliver.

I thought back to early September when I had helped Joe V install a new set of pine steps.   I’d gotten a nasty sliver, and assumed I’d gotten the whole thing out.. guess not. 🙂

Pause.

The same thing happened again yesterday.  I came into the house for lunch and I noticed a  small piece of wood protruding out of the middle finger on my right hand.  Last month, I was moving some old lumber in my way on a project, and I got “stuck.”  At first, I thought I’d gotten another nasty sliver but when I got home that night and dug around, I couldn’t find anything.  (I wasn’t sure then whether I’d gotten a puncture wound or another sliver. Figured if something was in there, it would eventually work itself out.)

I know how these things work now 🙂

Pause.

Buried slivers are a great word picture for PTSD.  Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes…it could be sexual abuse. Could be trauma from combat.  Could be trauma from a surgery as a small child….  Sometimes after a traumatic event, in order for our brains to cope, a part of our heart goes numb.  It’s one of God’s coping mechanisms (I believe). The numbness initially allows me to continue to function…all the while the memory  foreign object stays buried in there somewhere, festering..and at the right time,  it will come to a head.  I don’t think you have to go looking for it.

I’ve seen this played out three times, in the lives of people close to me.   15 to 30 years after the initial trauma, weird things started to happen…unexplained panic attacks, the desire to cut, being in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, etc.

A marriage counselor told us  about the waves of terror that would overtake him when he started to deal with the abuse  he’d experienced as a child. Things didn’t come to a head until after he’d gotten married. Something would trigger the PTSD and it would incapacitate him.  One day, a friend of his stopped by unannounced, while he was in the middle of an episode. He told his wife to let his friend come up and see him…. The friend, a former marine,  had no idea that this guy was going through ptsd.  When he saw him, curled in a ball, covered with tears and snot, he crawled into the closet with him and just held him.

It was a turning point on his road to recovery.

If there is an emotional wound in your life that is giving you fits, don’t suffer in silence.  It means you are human.

Open up and let someone in.

DM

Ordering Your Private World

“Throughout the film he contrasts the frantic pace of modern life with a thoughtful interior life….”

French film director Eugene Green in a recent interview

Those words…“the frantic pace of modern life with the thoughtful interior life” jumped off the page to me last night as I was winding down.

I forget  what it feels like to live  life at a  “frantic pace.”

My life has not felt that way ever since I began to intentionally weave “margin” into my life.  I am loath to get myself suckered into the rat race again.

It did  happen briefly last fall.   I had two major construction projects needing to start at the same time, due to weather and customer delays, but that is no longer the norm.

Don’t get me wrong…I have not “arrived” in terms of anything…BUT, I am convinced the frantic/ manic pace of life will suck the life out of me unless I am very careful.

I am a first-born type A personality.  I grew up on a dairy farm which compounded my need to stay busy, so I know what I’m talking about.

There are two young families that I know, (sort of) where the financial and job pressures are sucking the life out of their marriages. (Like  fire sucking the oxygen out of a room)  There is the illusion they have made it.  Super nice homes.  Nice cars.  Both spouses making multiple times more per year than I.

We could live off the income of any one of those four people and  have money set aside.

If that is the lifestyle both of you  love and enjoy…then there is not a problem.

Just different priorities.

If however, one of the people in either one of those situations feels trapped….then it is (a problem.)

How sad to live your life, day in, day out, commuting to a full-time job you hate,  never feeling like there is enough money, not enough hours in the day.  Being married to someone, who (initially) you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, but now..not so much.

That is what I am talking about.

I’m a visual person, so it helped me to have something I could look at to get my bearings.

In my mind’s eye, I felt like I was the captain of a large ocean-going vessel, headed the wrong way….  So  I literally, drew a diagram with a large ship on a piece of white poster board/ taped it to the wall in front of my desk, with different positions on the chart showing the boat changing directions.

I needed to turn my ship around and set a new course….Well, you can’t turn a ship that size around on a dime…but once you move the rudder hard  you do change directions.

Moving the rudder meant setting some new financial, time management, and relational goals and then acting on them.

Just drawing that chart gave me hope.  I knew where we were headed,  even if the circumstances had not changed in the short-term.

There was a new sense of hope and purpose in our home, in our relationship, in my heart.

It all starts in the mind.

There were a couple of books that also helped me re-plot my course. One of them was called “Ordering Your Private World.”

I’ve written on this topic  before…As I find the older posts in  my archives, I will put the link to them here..

Here’s one of those earlier posts.

My encounter with the Flimflam man

Flimflam Man:   A person who  tricks or deceives, especially a swindle or confidence game involving skillful persuasion or clever manipulation of the victim.

Have you ever  been played by  the flimflam man?

I have.

Twice.

Completely different circumstances, one was more relational, but both left me feeling used, deceived, and angry.

Until just very recently, I would still find myself getting angry whenever I thought about either of them,  and this would happen at the most random times, at least once a week.

This fall we were watching a mini series called Larkrise to Candleford.  During an episode where a con artist by the name of Pegleg comes to town, Laura’s mother realizes,  she and the whole town have been scammed by Pegleg…..and she is livid!!!~

I looked over at my wife and said…”That is exactly how I feel when I think about the flimflam man!

peg-leg

Pegleg (aka the flimflam man)

Google image

Suddenly my random bouts of low grade anger did not feel quite so random, low-grade or irrational.

I felt validated.

Only thing is, I didn’t want to stay trapped in my anger for the rest of my life.

Ten years should have been enough time to process and move on…

Only it hasn’t.

I decided to take another run at it recently,  (forgiveness) and finally, was able to  disentangle myself from the anger….

I am thankful.

I am thankful for my encounters with the Flimflam man.

Not for what he did or did not do, but thankful for the personal growth that came out of it.

Thankful, because I am just a little wiser.

Thankful because I am better able to have hard conversations.

Thankful because it made us stronger as a couple.

Thankful for the four people in my life, who unbeknownst to each other, each came up at different times and expressed concern we might be getting used.

Thankful, my dealings with the flimflam man,  did not leave me permanently poisoned in my willingness to trust.

Some of this relational/ people skills  stuff can’t be learned from a book.

It has to be experienced.

The end.

 

Everybody Move!

When the kids were growing up  Princess Bride was one of those movies we watched again and again.  We still quote lines back and forth  to each other….

“Anybody want a peanut?”

Either you get it or you don’t.  😉

When anyone leave our place, if you were to glance at the kitchen window, you would see whomever’s home waving.

We got into the habit years ago.  Often muttering under our breath...”Have fun storm’n the castle…” 😉

 

have-fun-storming-the-castle

So, Monday afternoon I got a call from my eldest..

She’d just gotten home from the grocery store.  Said the place was crazy busy.

Came around the  corner pushing a cart and the aisle was block….snarled up like a traffic jam.

Her mind immediately went to a scene in Princess Bride where Fezzik the giant took command of a similar situation.

In her best deep Fezzik voice. it just came out….

Everybody move!

 

People scattered.

Her husband turned red and took off in another direction.

When daughter got home from the store, she had to call her papa.   (Me )  Both of us howled.

Daughter was pretty sure by the look on most of the faces, they had no idea that they’d just heard  a line from a movie.

Eldest daughter…

You rock! 😉

I love your sense of humor.

I love hearing your laugh.

I’m  so glad we share crazy movies like this with each other.

Love you!  The papa.

Chasing Rabbits

When I was @ the lumberyard yesterday,  the store manager asked me if I’d built such and such a building this fall… (a $400,00 commercial project  30 minutes from here).

“Nope, I said, although Jason and I did spend a month doing the landscaping…”

“Oh, I was just wondering” he said….

I thought to myself, I don’t have the crew nor desire to take on that large of a project….

Then fleeting thoughts of  “failure…looser”  went through my mind, but I ignored them.

This year, I have been doing mostly small repairs, building doors for a dairy set up, tables, fixing holes in buildings.. still working, but nothing large.

Yes,  there are times I wish I was generating more $ 😉

(see my last post)

and yet….there is a young man I know whom  I see regularly at the lumberyard, He just starting  his own business. He recently purchased a 2016 full size pickup with all the bells and whistles.   I know from various sources, he has financial problems…  Doing the type of work I do, there is no way, I  generate enough net income to afford that  truck….but if you were to meet him and I, and judge us solely by the  trucks we drive, you would think he is more successful than I…..

(I drive a Toyota Tundra with 180,000 miles on it, that is paid for)

I love what I do…but (and I’ve written about this before) when our kids were younger,  I was doing a poor job of managing my time. My marriage and  family was floundering.  We were living pay check to pay check. I was gone a lot. My wife was doing 99% of  the work raising our kids,  and we were drifting apart as a couple.

She finally said to me, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Then came across the following…

“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool….”

and another one…”if you are a hero to strangers, but a stranger to your children... (same thing/ you are a fool).

Whop/ Felt like someone had hit me across the nose with a 2 by 4…

So here I sit, almost 30  years removed from that season of my life, no longer a driven, workaholic and I meet young men all of the time chasing the  same rabbit around the track I used to chase…

But there is more than one way  to measure success.

I have two areas of my life that I keep an eye on.

Like gauges on an engine…

One is called relationship.

Relationship.  My relationship with God, (as I understand him)  my relationship with my wife and children.. relationships with the rest of the people in my life. (Which is also why I invest time blogging..I really do value those of you that I interact with here!)

And the second (and equally important)  gauge, my heart…

Not my physical heart, but, the  inner/ hidden person of my heart.

There is a mantra (I try) to keep in the fore-front of my life, that goes like this:   “Keep, (or guard) your heart with all vigilance (or diligence)  for from it flows the springs of life…” 

ie. inner life: (peace, joy, and all of that) flow out of an artesian spring, down deep in the bedrock of my heart… because of the world  in which I live, my heart  can easily become dirty and fouled, cluttered with too many job pressures,  financial pressures, etc.

So, if work, (or anything for that matter)  is choking the life out of me, then it behooves me to do something about it.

success-is-not-always-what-you-see

Google image

Wild Flowers on the Brain

honey-bee-flowers

photo by google

Of late, my brain has been percolating on a new project…

A couple of them actually.

Honey bees and wild flowers.

Our small apple orchard already and consistently provides me with loads of joy and I think bee hives and a field of wild flowers would dovetail nicely into my life.

For  years, random people in my life…I’m talking random… would say, “You need to get honey bees!”..and I would think..”yea, right,  like I need another ball to juggle….”

But…

I am finally at the place where I would like to take the plunge.

We live on  4 acres of property…most of it, is taken up by buildings  but there is an acre of ground just north of our windbreak that is just sitting there, growing a nice crop of weeds.  I’ve toyed around with planting more apple trees out there but the 100 apple trees that I currently manage, more than satisfy that “itch” for an orchard.

So……………what I’m wanting to do, is plant that field  permanently into wild flowers that would bloom throughout the summer (so once the bees are done with pollinating the apple trees they would have an acre of flowers to work in and not have to travel too far.

I have been fascinated with wild flowers for years.  I think it’s the artist in me. 😉

There are several details that still need to come together, the biggest being money. 😉

I could hire the field work done, but properly prepping a field for flowers after this many years of growing weeds requires much more attention and work than just planting it into corn or beans.

The cost would not be as much as an investment in a tractor and rotor tiller but would still be a couple of thousand dollars, plus I would have to be dependent on someone else’ s  schedule and flexibility.

Besides,  and this is important…

I want to work the soil myself. (Must be the farmer in me.) 😉

I hate debt, and will not borrow money unless it pencils out long term. A dozen hives and an acre of flowers would take quite a while to generate $5,000…

So I wait…

And learn…

And put out feelers…

____________________

And on a completely unrelated note, I moved (it’s called racking) the hard apple cider into smaller containers last weekend.  1/2 gallon of it, is covered with cheese cloth and exposed to the air so it will continue to ferment and morph into apple cider vinegar..the rest is still hard cider.  When I tested it with the hydrometer, it tested at 10.9% alcohol content.  That was fast.  We’re not big consumers of alcohol so, I’ll probably turn most of it into apple cider  vinegar.

 

Pregnant Females

I have spent the last three days working around a dozen pregnant females.

Yesterday one went into labor.

I felt at home with all of those hormones in the air.

Growing up, there were babies being born almost monthly.

Learned  about lactation,  the importance of  colostrum, the discomfort that comes with a case of mastitis….

I’ve seen  my share of placenta’s….

I was telling my son this morning about the time I helped with a cesarean.

She (the patient) was awake  through the whole procedure.

I can still see the Dr take his scalpel and make the incision.

Ended up using some kind of gizmo to get the little stinker out when he couldn’t pull it by hand…the baby was too slippery.

 

I didn’t realize at the time, just how much I was  absorbing growing up on a dairy farm. 😉

 

DM