Addiction, Bipolar Disorder, depression, faith, mental health, Parenting, writing

An Addict’s Lesson of Love

This is Ricky’s story.

Ten Novembers ago Ricky died of pneumonia at the age of 43 which was ironic since he had battled addiction for most of his life and attempted suicide eight times.

Ricky was my father.

Photo by Ar Meftah on Unsplash

The Early Years

His childhood ran parallel to my childhood experience. A young kid raised in East Tennessee, a love for art, and an alcoholic father.

I was held by my 17 year old mother when I was born. Ricky looked down into the incubator at me soon after with a huge smile on his face. There’s a picture to prove that he was there and that he cared. I looked at that picture a lot growing up. I needed the reminder. He was 22 and I imagine he was hopeful. That’s what I get from the photo–hope and pure pride.

Ricky was gone by the time I was 4. He sped away one morning in his car and squealed the tires around the curve at the bottom of the road near the treeline. I went back inside and went about my day. I think I played with Barbies while Mama cried in her bedroom.

I saw him on the occasional Christmas and Birthday where he’d shower me with gifts that his mom had paid for and wrapped herself. Nobody told me that, but I knew early on. There was no way he would have known what I wanted for Christmas, my favorite color, or that I loved my presents to be wrapped individually, but stacked and tied together with a large bow on top.

When I was 9 years old I told him I never wanted to speak to him again. The anger had caught up to me. Besides, Mama had remarried and I had a real dad that knew my favorite color and took time to play Frisbee with me outside.

Photo by Julia Engel on Unsplash

Forgiveness

I stewed in my resentment for a long time which I still believe is perfectly reasonable for any girl that’s been abandoned by her father.

When I was fourteen, I saw Ricky sitting outside of the assisted living home where he’d been living for a year, smoking a cigarette in his wheelchair. I had mom stop the car and as soon as she shifted the car into park, I opened the door without hesitating. I knew if I hesitated that I wouldn’t be able to muster up the courage. I had to do this on impulse. He spotted me almost instantly and said, “Hey baby!” I hated when he called me baby. I kept walking until I was by his side.

“I forgive you.”, I blurted out. “You left me and I forgive you.”

His blue-green eyes filled with tears and he exhaled the last of his cigarette.

I don’t remember what he said or if I went back to the car immediately.

Cigarettes and Cassette Tapes

When I think of Ricky, I think of three things: cassette tapes of 80’s rock n’ roll, cigarettes, and fudge Pop Tarts.

I’d love to say that my forgiving my dad changed everything and that we grew to become best friends. The truth is that I still cringed when he hugged me when I was leaving from our weekly visits. I hated when he said I reminded him of himself. It made me incredibly sad when he talked about his alcoholism and pleaded with me to always choose my future family over anything else. Even though it made me sad, I changed the subject or made an excuse to get off of the phone. I couldn’t comfort him because I didn’t know how.

He would stay up late in manic episodes recording cassette tapes for me.

Side A: Kiss, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses / Side B: more Kiss, U2, and AC/DC

He would meticulously write out the lyrics in tiny perfect hand writing on the cassette cover. He’d give them to me almost every visit and I’d end up throwing them away during my next visit to the car wash. I still don’t know why I did that. Maybe it was to keep myself from loving him too much. In case things didn’t work out then I wouldn’t have remnants of him around my car.

The Last Chapter

I did grow to love him, though. It turned out that I always had. The little girl that had refused to care for so long had actually cared all along. I began to notice that Ricky’s mood was always unpredictable. Some of my visits he would spend laughing and cracking jokes. Other days, he would go back to sleep while I watched TV. He’d wake back up to smoke a cigarette and then go back to bed. I’d let myself out without waking him and would drive the long way home to sort through the feelings of abandonment that would resurface.

He was sick. I knew that the bipolar moods were not his fault and that the depression had a strong hold on him. Still, I felt like a little girl yearning for her dad to pay attention to her.

The last time I saw Ricky was at my wedding. He had saved large portions of his disability check so that he could buy my wedding dress. After the ceremony, I gave him a quick hug on my way to have photos taken. He said he wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home. The hug felt awkward as always and I found myself pulling away before he was ready.

Two months later I was watching his casket get lowered into the heart of the earth. He was only 43 years-old. He had left me again. This time, I couldn’t reconcile. I wanted to dig through the landfill and find the cassette tapes. I craved an awkward hug and all I wanted was to hear him snore while I watched the same infomercials again and again.

More than anything, I wanted to know his favorite color. I never got to ask.

Lessons in Love

I have Ricky to thank for teaching me what love is.

Love is complicated. It isn’t always pristine and comfortable. Love is putting in the hard work. Love is forgiveness. Love is apologizing for the past and doing your best to be present in the moment. Love is allowing people to be imperfect and realizing that we too are imperfect.

Love is more than knowing someone’s favorite color. It’s knowing that you’d give your very life for them if you had to. It’s sacrificial and it’s ultimately the only thing we will die remembering.

Ricky, I know your life was really hard.

I know you tried your best.

Me forgiving you changed everything for you. Realizing you loved me changed everything for me.

Rock on xx

Anxiety, art, Chronic illness, faith, mental health, parenting, rest, slow living, women's health, writing

Dear Stranger, it’s time to rest

This guest post is by my dear friend Kiersten. She’s a nurturer, a soul filler-upper (that’s a word, right?), and hysterical breath of fresh air. She loves deeply and creates art with all of her soul over at all.from.home. Kiersten offers virtual yoga retreats a few times a year where she invites you into a safe slow yoga flow, a meditation on scripture, and a corresponding craft. Follow her on Instagram to stay in the loop and join us in her next retreat. She has been a huge influence in my own journey in true self-care and honoring my body by seeking regular rest.

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

I’m currently sitting in bed eating Ben and Jerry’s as I write this. I think that’s pretty appropriate with this topic.

The relationship between rest and me has always been a murky one. What is laziness, and what is this so called “self-care?” Where is the line? What is “rest,” and am I even allowed to have it?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve worked for rest. I’ve worked myself to the bone so that I could be deserving of a nap. I’ve pushed myself to the point of being sick, so then I could rest guilt-free, because “doctor’s orders!” I’ve spiraled in anxiety and depression over and over, because I didn’t give my body a voice. And why?

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

I grew up as a minister’s kid in a Christian home, and would still say of myself that my faith in Jesus is the biggest part of who I am. While I am so grateful for my upbringing, I think that this has often been my downfall. Growing up in the church, and constantly being involved in ministry has more often than not left me feeling that I am not enough. I don’t bring enough, I could never help enough people, I don’t donate enough money, I don’t give enough hours, I don’t fast enough, I don’t pray enough, I don’t care about the “headed straight to hell” souls enough, etc. etc.

I do want to note that this is MY experience. My experience has been in the area of religion. Maybe yours is in a career path, a relationship, or a family situation. I don’t know. But what I do know is that this seems to be a huge part of the human condition, no matter what or who you believe in. This overall dreadful feeling of “never enough.”

What if the reason we feel this way isn’t because we aren’t enough? Because we are completely drained? Will you do something for me?

Close your eyes, and picture a house plant.

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

Imagine the leaves are brown, dry, and droopy.

Visualize the soil pulling away from the side of the planter due to how dry it is.

Now, see yourself getting a glass, and filling it 1/8th of the way with water.

See yourself walking over to the plant, and trying to water the plant with that amount of water.

Can you see the water barely wetting the soil at all?

Imagine that you are that water glass. Trying to nurture and create life, hoping to make some sort of difference, but totally and completely empty from the start. It was never going to be enough, because you started with a near empty glass.

I believe that God created the world in seven days, and on the seventh day, He rested. Now, he made man on the sixth day, right? Why not on the first day, so that man could help God do all the work? No, the very first day of man being a living creature, he woke up, and God said, “Today, we rest.” He started him off with rest. God knew that to give anything, there has to be something received first.

What if instead of living for rest, we lived from rest?

What would our lives, or marriages, our homes, our communities, and our world look like? The truth is that we’d all be pouring from glasses that are always full, not trying to squeeze out every last drop, and failing miserably.

I know I’ve asked a lot of questions here today, but I think that true rest to me is taking the time to notice. Rest can look like so many things, from naps, to creative time, to movie nights, to journaling.

But “true rest” to me is being present wherever I am, and living from the peace I have on the inside. It is asking myself questions all throughout the day.

Things like:

Mind, how are you today? Is there anything you need to lay down?

Body, how are you feeling? What do you need? If it’s a nap instead of a walk, that’s okay.

Soul, how are you? If you’re overwhelmed, it’s okay. Or if you’re hopeful, you have permission to be excited!

And then not judging myself for anything I feel, but answering myself in kindness, and taking the time to fill up my own cup. Because if I don’t, I am doing the world around me an injustice, because I will have nothing to pour out.

So, take some time today to find true, honest, real rest! Maybe it’s an hour, or maybe it’s 5 minutes. I just want to invite you to take some time to close your eyes, and listen. And hopefully be inspired to take a rest.

So much love, friends!

Kiersten

art, mental health, slow living, small business, writing

Dear Writer,

White coffee mug with the word Begin on it sitting on a wooden table.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

This post is dedicated to all of the writers attending the hope*writers conference in Charlotte, NC this week. My hope is that you leave inspired and with an ache to write for the hopeless.

The words within you are just as much a part of you as the blood in your veins and run as deeply as your bone marrow. Perhaps those words flow through you with each beating of your heart.

Fear often tries to put you in your place–reminding you that you should stay silent. Fear tells you there isn’t a soul that would find healing in your words.

You’ve been silent for too long.

A new season is beginning.

Do you hear it?

Can you see it?

It’s a season of audacity and hope–one where your words heal you and then, the world. Push through the soil and bloom with your face toward the sun. If you do not write your words then nobody will–they’ll come to a slow halt with the last beat of your heart.

The time is now.

Write.

Write because you were born to do so.

Write because people need hope.

Write and never stop.

You matter—your words matter.

Nikki xx

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