Seeking the Way: —nihilism to suicide – 27 years (part two)

An informational meeting about Transcendental Meditation had attracted me when it was mentioned at the New Age Foundation meeting and so I attended the hour-long introduction. Mostly it gave me a list of the good things it could do for me in several areas: health related, mental, physical and spiritual. I was attracted to what I felt was related to “personal growth” and the fact that it did not require following a belief system appealed to me, but I was distracted by the number of resources they were pushing (teaching centers, schools, alternative health centers and supplements, solar panels, architecture, publishing, radio/television, and home financing companies)—too much and most of it outside my area of interest.

I was overwhelmed and when the meeting ended, I had decided it was not what I was looking for and stood to leave. About then, an ex-husband walked up to me (I hadn’t known he would be there) and after updating each other, he took me to meet a friend of his, Marion, a psychic medium and very friendly. Before I left, I had scheduled an appointment to meet with her about my personal situation (married to a sado-masochist) and to ask her advice on my journey ahead. It couldn’t hurt, I thought, and it was another way to seek my answers.

Here again this part of my life held more:
tidal waves, oceans, and moonlight
(traumatic events, deep waters, and small points of light in the darkness)

(escaped through a second-story window landing on a bush that kept me from serious injury from the fall)
—public humiliation after I confessed to
an adulterous affair (I didn’t know my church-going seducer was married)
—”friends” were drug users and the crowd was
really rough puting me in harm’s way several times
(I never participated in the drugs as designated driver)
—raped by drugged “friend”
(he was extremely sorry when he came ouf of his drugged state and realized what he had done)
—best friend committed suicide

NEXT—PSYCHIC PHENOMENON: When I met with Marion, I was struck by her sincerity. I had always been taught that all psychics were frauds and scammers. She seemed genuinely concerned about my situation and urged me to come back and meet with her again to work through some of the darkness in my aura. I didn’t even know what an “aura” was, but I was willing to investigate this “way” a little further.

After several visits, I felt like we were friends and so, when she encouraged me to pursue my own psychic abilities, I thought it might be the ”way” I had been searching for all my life—within myself all the time. She was willing to help me explore my “gift,” so we started getting together and I started discovering I could “know” things about people I had never met just by meeting them. I was surprised by my accuracy and I knew I wasn’t scamming anyone, so it seemed I had found my “way” and I was willing to look a little deeper.

ANOTHER WAY: was brought to me and I pursued it with great excitement—horoscopes. My studies used my analytical skills, math, and some science, too! After all, the tides of the ocean are impacted by the pull of the moon, so why wouldn’t it be logical to believe that the placement of planets in the solar system could impact human beings by their gravitational pull? I bought a lot of books and tools to improve the accuracy of my horoscopes. Horoscopes and psychic readings were so exciting and the accuracy blew my mind almost as much as it did those who consulted with me.

In this phase, I observed what was called “psychic surgery” (only from a distance, so I am not knowledgeable in that area), “house cleansings,” “spirit communications” all seemed to confirm in my mind that there was definitely another plane of existence, an unseen power of life, forces of darkness and light, and much that could not be explained away very easily. I wanted to know more – I wanted to experience more – I wanted to explore more.

THEN, MAJOR TRAGEDY: my best friend who lived across the street on our little cul-de-sac committed suicide. She and her husband had been at our house for parties on occasion and she and I spoke often—in fact, she called me the day she died, but I was too busy to talk and told her I would call her later . . . but later didn’t come for us. She was troubled and took multiple doses of Valium (different doctors did not know she was using them, so she had multiple prescriptions). The horror of it and the depth of the impact on me and my neighbors was major. It struck us that it could have been any one of us – we all thought she was happy or at least okay in general, so could I be smiling one day and end my life the next day and no one would know I was going to do it—back to realizing that no one cared enough to really know me again or, for that matter, any of us!

Some time after her death, her husband and I got involved as we were comforting each other and trying to deal with it all. And that is one of the major pieces that led to where my “final” solution became my “only” answer to a life with too many “tidal waves.”

Love . . . or what I thought was love—
Success . . . or what others said was success—
Career achievements . . . or what others applauded—
Personal growth . . . or did helping others count—
Seeking the way . . . or did it matter any more—

From darkness to light . . . to darkness . . . to light . . . to more tidal waves and more oceans until . . .

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Seeking the Way: —nihilism to suicide – 27 years (part one)

So now comes a time that is hard to review and I will not go into much detail because it does not serve the purpose of my overview about my “seeking the Way” except from the perspective of how the “events’ of this time more completely changed my idea of God, His nature, even His existence and how it all played a part in my choices.

So, here is a summary of my life that I would call:
tidal waves, oceans, and moonlight
(traumatic events, deep waters, and small points of light in the darkness)

—abused by a trusted adult
—forced to leave family at 16 years old
(Michigan—>North Carolina)
—life threatened, police advised,
fled to anonymous existence
(North Carolina—>Florida)
(Florida—>South Carolina)
—three (3) failed marriages
. a pathological liar
. a “savior”
. a sado-masochist
—gave up child to protect child
from me and my lifestyle

My childhood had entrenched in me very strong perfectionist tendencies and my “failures” were magnified by the religious teachings that required perfect adherence to literally-interpreted Judeo-Christian scriptures and “second chances” were almost unheard of for any reason. Therefore, not being able to live up to the requirements meant being lost forever as judgement would send me to hell for eternal punishment for my life choices.

I was baptized three (3) times that I remember and it may have been a time or two more—that was because I was taught baptism was the only way to “get clean” and I could claim any previous commitment was without proper understanding so they didn’t count which put me back as an “alien sinner,” (one never baptized). I could get full pardon as an “alien sinner,” but as a “baptized Christian,” I would have to accept the penality for my “sins.” So I had to claim I wasn’t baptized the previous times for the right reason or understanding.

This series of attempts to “get clean” added to my guilt because I believed I was using and abusing that system to attain the impossible state of forgiveness for what I believed was unforgiveable—willful sin, sins chosen knowing they were wrong choices, and enjoying the sin and not wanting to stop the sin, just repent to avoid punishment.

A PICTURE, AN OCEAN—there was, and still is, a picture in my mom’s house of the ocean on a cloudy, moonlit night. I still look at that picture and think of my life spent trying to make sense of the “ocean” – trying to swim in deep water knowing I was in way over my head and eventually giving in to the realization that it was hopeless . . . my life was hopeless, I was hopeless. Nobody cared. Nothing made any sense!

Before reaching that hopeless final decision, I spent years searching for answers in many places. I rejected my childhood religious beliefs after being verbally berated by the wife of a leader in the church I was attending for not having the reason for my divorce actually put on the court decree as “adultery” (the only acceptable “scriptural” grounds according to that church). At such a young age, I walked out of that church shattered in heart and broken in spirit and swore to never return to any group that could inflict such pain on any person.

NEXT—A NEW AGE: as a young adult seeking for answers to life, its meaning, and how to live it, I was attracted to the New Age Foundation by a friend. I attended a recruiting event in a large auditorium that was filled with other young seekers and much enthusiasm. The basic platform was presented by a charismatic speaker who “sold” it as a simple, almost miraculous answer to all the questions of life.

MOONLIGHT—The message I heard was: love and light offering a foretaste of the coming era through personal transformation and healing.
The way to rise above
the darkness of my past,
the emptiness of my present, and
the despair of my future—
an offer of hope that was compelling,
food for a starving soul,
light to guide a seeker . . .

For the first time, I felt hope that there was “more” to life than I had experienced and that looking within with the proper guidance would bring peace, enlightenment, the path to walk that would lead to the answers I had been seeking. It brought me back to what I had believed as a 7-year-old, that blind belief that there was more, that there was power to be accessed beyond myself and in myself, and that I could gain entrance into that by bonding with the right belief system with the right guide—I just had to find it.

So, my first stop in this part of my journey was Transcendental Meditation, a way to access what was beyond me and lead to a deeper, fuller life by drawing on the consciousness of the universe, connecting with the deeper consciousness within myself.

I attended an informational meeting at the home of a local practitioner to see if it was something I wanted to pursue and that meeting took me to places I would never have imagined or even believe existed.

From darkness to light . . . to darkness . . . to light . . . to more tidal waves and more oceans until . . .

next: Seeking the Way: —nihilism to suicide – 27 years (part two)

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Seeking the Way: a magnet toward nihilism

(early environment: fundamentalist Christian/father: legalistic – mother: moderate)

At 7-years-old, I wanted to know the way to get back the magnet that was necessary for me to play a game, a special gift from one of my hospital stays . . . so I prayed hard and often for several days believing GOD would show me where the magnet was . . .

AND I wanted to commit myself to the GOD I felt so strongly in my heart, but did not claim to understand — my dad said “no” and belittled my request by pointing out I was a child and saying I could not possibly understand what it meant to say I loved GOD and wanted to always do what GOD told me to do . . . and he, of course, was right—from a purely mental assessment, I did not understand the importance of what I was saying or comprehend its meaning.

But my heart was broken at that point and I decided that GOD did not answer my prayer about the magnet because I did not make my commitment to him – it was a punishment.

This is my first memory of a change in my idea of GOD and “the way” to live, committed to and depending on GOD or depending on myself—that was my first big mistake that impacted many choices in the coming years because it planted doubt in my heart about who GOD was and gave GOD human characteristics. So, it meant I would have to make it on my own and not depend on GOD to help me –
no magnet showed me there was no GOD willing to help me.

Almost, but not quite, a nihilist –
I still believed I could impact my life to some degree, but less became less and less until in 1980, I reached the natural conclusion of “no reason to live” and decided to end it all . . . but, before that point, I traveled paths to many “ways” seeking “The Way” – challenging and interesting and sometimes very confusing – a strong mix of dark and light!

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Seeking the Way . . .

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Grief, Loss, Healing – a step

April 2, 2020 through
Tuesday – May 26, 2020,
August 11, 2020
Jeanne Hicks-Barnett

The last two afternoons I have gone out to mom’s house and done some cleaning to get it ready for Marcus and I to move in—we want to try to move in July 1, but, with the amount to be done, I am trying to deal with it in stages.

There is still so much to be done out there . . . still so many of mom’s things, personal items which is what everything out there is . . . memory triggers. I keep expecting to see her walk in from her bedroom when I am cleaning in the kitchen . . . heartbreaking, precious memories of when I went out to help clean after she had gotten unable to do it but was not in the nursing home yet. October 2017 was when mom started having multiple TIAs and spent several times in Rehab and then the Rehab doctor said he would not release her to go to her house, but would only release her to a skilled care facility, so October 26, 2017, we checked into Oakdale Nursing home in Judsonia.

Grief threatens to overwhelm me as I wish I could ask her if that cup I am washing before deciding whether to keep it or not meant something special to her – was that little nicknack given to her by somebody special – and I looked at the cactus on the kitchen window ledge. They almost died before I was out there and noticed they should be watered. Somehow that brought more grief—letting them die when I know mom really enjoyed growing things and especially those cactus.

Memories from our last few weeks together flood into my heart and mind—I remember when she said to me “I want to go home” and I really think she meant her house; but I told her she couldn’t do that. I wish I had not told her “no.” I think that is a part of what robbed her of that last bit of hope to cling to for her will to live to hold her with us. I heard her say that she wanted to go home, but somehow I did not really get the importance of that statement. I heard the words, but I did not hear her heart and I am SO sorry for that.

She wanted to be back in her familiar place, her “nest” with her things, her tea pot that she used every morning to make green tea for her and dad with its own little cloth cover, to be in her room lying in her bed so everything around her would be familiar and not strange like it was at the nursing home as her dementia grew.

We tried, Dawnmarie and I, to make that room at the nursing home feel like her space. We took the pictures in big frames and hung them on the walls to try to make it look like her room at her house . . . but, it didn’t really look or feel like her space. Her space, cluttered with her stuff, her blankets, her stuffed animals (not the new ones I bought for her and dad, it wasn’t the same, they hadn’t been hugged enough).

Every day after she made green tea and she and dad had their breakfast, she would go to that front bedroom and lay on the bed, watch her TV or read one of her books and dad would come and lay down with her after lunch for a nap time together. She would get upset if he did not come take a nap with her and she listened for him in case he fell since he had fallen a number of times since 2015 when he broke his neck.

I know there is no way mom could have lived in her house after October 2017, but it breaks my heart that I didn’t take her on short trips out of that nursing home after dad died. She was always the one who wanted to “go”—she was the one who pushed dad to travel while he was more willing to just stay home and stay in bed a lot.

Even when they traveled, he just wanted to stay in the motorhome and she wanted to go see the sights; it was always something she complained about and sometimes dad gave in and they did some sightseeing some place and she loved it!

All the “things” still in that house that speak to me of mom . . . not just the clothes, but the cup she drank her tea out of, the special plates she treasured, her Tupperware left from decades ago when she was an extremely successful Regional Manager in Raleigh, North Carolina, and earned many things for her house and even earned a car!

I wish I had been more present in the moments we were together, but life just seemed to always be pushing us toward something else that needed to be done or some place else we needed to be.

Before moving to the nursing home, Mom’s dementia caused her to express feelings of loss and loneliness in some Facebook posts she made, usually around 3 in the morning and I wish I had really heard her heart then. I did encourage her to write about their travels thinking that might bring her some joy just remembering those travels, but her arthritis made writing impossible and she said it hurt to type and she would get confused as to how to spell some words as her dementia slowly imperceptively grew, so I really needed to let her tell me what to type and we talked about doing that . . . but somehow, we never did that, we talked about doing that, but we never did it and then it reached a point where she could not access those memories so we never captured those special moments and . . . now we can’t.

In the summer of 2014 and 2015, my brother Clint and I took mom and dad on a trip to the annual Bible Camp in Ohio and, in 2014, on to visit mom’s sister Betty and on to Michigan to visit her brother Jerry and dad’s sister Bernice and his brother Lowell. In 2015, Carey’s Run church of Christ put on a special 70th Wedding Anniversary for mom and dad. It was our last trip together and I convinced mom to give the gun they carried in the motorhome to Clint because I was concerned she might decide to use it. She had said on at least two occasions that she had considered shooting dad and then herself because they were getting unable to do what they had always done and the only reason she had not done that was because she was afraid of just wounding one or both of them and then they would linger on handicapped more.

Before October 26, 2017, mom had burned up several pans she forgot on the stove when she was cooking, so it was becoming more dangerous for them to be alone at their house. I signed them up for “meals on wheels” so they could just pop a meal in the microwave, but she was not comfortable doing that, so the meals accumulated in the freezer out in the backyard shed and it became not safe for her to make that trek out to the shed to get the meals and she would forget they were there, so, other than the few times I was out there and brought in some of the meals, they went past expiration date and we ended up throwing most of them in the garbage.

Family was so important to mom and my brothers were only able to see her occasionally, so those became special times for her and dad, but, unfortunately my brother’s lives kept them both so busy, their visits were rare until close to the end of dad’s life.

Another bad milestone was when dad’s hearing got so diminished he could not hear on the phone and mom’s dementia worsened and she could not remember how to use the cell phone. So I had to take mom’s cell phone because her phone was the main number people called and she could not take book orders or even consistently remember how to answer the phone. I eventually had to take dad’s cell phone in case any calls came in on that phone. Dad raised a BIG ruckus and demanded his phone back, but I ran a test and proved to him that he could not hear anything on the phone, but he hated not being in control of yet another area in his life and he loudly complained about not being able to contact me so it was a huge issue—unfortunately, it was unresolvable to his satisfaction. In April, I started communicating with dad by using computer-generated signs I printed before I went up each day and eventually got a dry erase board. Dad’s final appointment with a doctor was for his hearing. He was convinced that he just needed to have wax cleaned out of his ears as had been done in the past, so when Dr. Hatfield told him his hearing loss was permanent and not just a wax build up, dad gave up. You could see it on dad’s face, he was defeated. That appointment was May 20 and dad passed away around 12:30am June 3.

Mom was holding his hand, but I do not think she had any idea that he had passed. We did not figure mom would live long after dad’s passing and it was so hard having her ask when dad was coming back or crane her neck looking for him to come in when we sat at the dining room table or when a man with salt and pepper hair came in and she would call out “Olan” – and look crushed when it was not him.

Mom had her last meal in the nursing home dining room eating reluctantly on December 20 . . . after that, it was a challenge to get her to eat anything. I remember the very caring staff at Oakdale would be excited to tell me that she had eaten 50 percent of her meal and we were all sad when it reached the point of her eating no breakfast and only 25 percent of her lunch and then it reached the point where I only got her to eat something when I brought her some lime jello I had made (her favorite) and then . . . nothing and she passed mid-day on January 18, 2020, my brother Clint’s birthday.

In my review of both mom and dad’s passing, I can see some things I didn’t really register the significance of at the time:

• dad’s primary life force seemed to come from his being recognized as smart and able to “win”—his value was in his performance

• mom’s primary life force seemed to come from her value to others—her value was in her giving

• July 22, 2017—The motorhome sale was an extremely traumatic event for mom. She cried after it was done and she begged before it was done for dad not to sell the motorhome. She said, “I know we will never get to take a trip again if you sell it.” Of course, we tried to tell her we could take trips in the car and, of course, that did not happen because of dad’s instability, his falls increased from 2015 and Clint and I were afraid we could not keep him safe if we took them on a trip after 2015, so mom was right.

Realistically, the motorhome was in such bad shape with major cab deterioration that we probably could not have used it for a trip again anyway . . . but, it was a symbol to mom that her life was over, at least the life she knew and loved, what made her feel alive.

I think that was why her main push after dad passed was to get a van and travel around to visit friends and family—that was a life she thrived in and that thought kept her going until December 2019.

• May 20, 2019—dad was forced to face his physical deterioration with his permanent hearing loss (some months earlier, he could not hold his guitar and play it with a group that came to the nursing home weekly and he refused to go down to the entertainment after his guitar slipped out of his hands) and, therefore, he would not be able to “perform” in any way, so he gave up, lost the will to live

• June 2, 2019—my brothers and I sat in their darkened room, room 404 at the nursing home that had been their home since October 26, 2017—we knew dad’s time was short. We sang hymns and songs that we knew mom and dad liked. Although dad had been almost totally unable to speak due to his trouble breathing,­ his dry throat, and his obvious lack of strength, he actually said “amen” after one of the songs—it was said very low, but it meant he had heard the songs and liked them. We thought it would be a couple of days before dad passed, so we left around 10pm to get some rest for the coming days . . . BUT, the call awakened me just after midnight June 3, 2019, from the nursing home that dad had passed and they had contacted hospice and the funeral home would be coming to transfer dad to their facility. I called my brother Clint and his wife who were staying at an RV park close to the nursing home so they were with mom when I arrived. I called my brother Chuck, but his phone was turned off so I was not able to let him know until later in the day.

• December 20, 2019—when mom accepted that she was never going to get a van and that she was never going to get to go to her home and, therefore, she would not be able to “give” to others, she gave up, lost the will to live

Mom’s way of “energizing” has always been going, being around others, she was a social butterfly and dad seemed to realize that and sometimes would get her out of being down by planning a trip for them when she pushed him about it. Dad really was a spark plug for mom, especially in their later years so dad’s absence was a major factor in mom’s life, a co-dependent relationship of ups and downs and of love/hate for 74 years left nothing in its place, a gigantic hole in every aspect of mom’s existence and she could not find any way to adjust to that emptiness.

• January 14, 2020—Mom was extremely nauseated and it seemed obvious that she would not last long. My brothers and I had spent some time with her at the beginning of January and met to discuss how we needed to proceed, but we were hoping for a few months to be with her before she passed . . . that was not to be.

My niece Aimee, a hospice nurse in Kentucky, made an emergency trip out to see her grandma (she was one of mom’s favorites from the beginning, so her presence gave mom comfort even in mom’s obvious gray dementia world). My niece confirmed that the end was near as our hospice worker had also indicated. While no one, of course, could say exactly how long it would be before mom passed, here again, we thought we had a week or so and, again, we were wrong.

On the evening of January 17, I decided to spend the night in mom’s room in case she needed anything (Janice left around 2am, I think) and the nursing home had moved mom’s “roommate” to another room and moved in a bed for me to rest on when I could. That night will forever be in my mind’s eye and my heart . . . there was nothing I could do. I just kept crying and praying but somehow holding to that totally ridiculous inner thought somewhere deep inside me that mom would somehow get through this and recover even though I knew that was not going to happen. In the wee hours as I sat there, the “death rattle” began and I called a nurse to get her opinion on what was going on and if anything could be done to help mom, to ease any discomfort she might be having. The nurse said there was a way to help mom, so she went to contact hospice for permission/instruction to give her a medication, some moisture but not anything that would cause her to choke, etc.

The nurse was very caring and came to check on us periodically. As morning came January 18, 2020, it did not seem to me that the night was gone as a darkness overwhelmed me, no conscious thought, just a heart surrounded by a dark numbness. A couple of the nursing home staff who had been involved in mom and dad’s care came by to comfort me and I collapsed several times into uncontrollable tears and groans. I wanted to release mom to be out of her discomfort but I did not want to let her go! There is NO deeper agony that I have ever experienced.

My brother Clint and his wife came and brought some Chick-fil-A breakfast and mid-morning it was decided that I needed to go home to take my medications and get a shower. My husband came and got me and we got some lunch before returning to the nursing home around 2:15pm. I think mom passed about 2:20pm just after Chuck left the room but it was about 2:25pm when Janice, my sister-in-law, said “I think she is gone.” I called Chuck to come back and put in a call to Hospice.

Around 2:55pm, the hospice nurse confirmed that mom had passed and the process began . . . the same one we had gone through seven months earlier with dad’s passing, but somehow this one was different . . . it was MOM and none of us were able to “deal” with it! Oh, we tried talking about things that needed doing and that kept us from crashing into that dark depth of grief that threatened to consume each of us BUT we each knew that just under the surface of our “calm” was an undertow of remarkable power . . . MOM was gone – the stabilizer through all of life’s traumas and storms, through challenges each of us had faced that she had brought us through, through life’s confrontations when she had been the supporting beam . . . MOM, somehow we never thought we would lose you ever, you wouldn’t leave us, we just knew somehow you would never leave us!!

Where do you throw the rope
• when the anchor it was secured to has been taken away . . .
• when those dependable repetitive words and actions that held the world together are silenced . . .
• when the base for family traditions are gone . . .
• when darkness fills the space where a light was always left on and the light switch operator has disappeared . . .
• when hope in the midst of the most traumatic scenes was infused by just hearing a voice . . .
Where do you throw the rope when the anchor it was secured to has been taken away?

And so . . . I am left with an “I WISH . . .” list
• of words I did not speak,
• of actions I did not take,
• of questions I did not ask,
• of times I did not fully live in the moment so I missed much of what was there,
• of hearing words but not hearing the heart of the one speaking,
• of missing the very opportunities I prayed for but was too busy to see were there to be taken,
• of ignoring signs that spoke of deeper needs in a loved one,
• of just giving simple loving support throughout all of life without analyzing the worth or value or whose agenda it was on . . .

and much more is on the “I wish list” and that is what makes the grief process so hard to get through since nothing can be done to impact what has passed and the loss is not measureable nor recoverable except as lessons for how to live the days ahead and how to apply the lessons to those tiny increments we measure as moments and those relationships we must consciously choose to treasure

the loss . . . not really able to put it into words — all the years of a “super inner” strength mom used to support us as children and young adults when we were only thinking of ourselves, all the years of surviving traumas most people do not have to live through but mom did and always with her focus on protecting us and others, all the years of her life that she willingly gave to others from sitting with a friend dying of cancer to months spent caring for her mother as she passed, all the years of giving love to her family, serving and supporting each family member and friend, all the years of reaching out to comfort anyone she thought was hurting with her words, her songs, her yodeling . . . the loss is undeniable . . . the loss is beyond words . . . the loss is beyond thoughts—it is pain wrapped in heart agony from a double-edged sword plunged into the depths beyond knowing, beyond feeling, beyond . . . just beyond . . .

Their funeral services were different – you could feel a difference if you were paying attention. It seemed easier to commerate dad’s passing and, I think, each of us felt the loss of dad but not in the same way we felt the loss of mom. Each of us struggled noticeably with speaking at mom’s service and only with GREAT difficulty were we able to get through the service for mom without a total meltdown.  It seemed like mom’s service was not a source of comfort nor did it bring a sense of closure for me. In fact, I think it delayed the process of confronting that grief for me because it was a public service and my grief was too private to express there, to allow that overwhelming flood of the realization of loss to begin might have been something impossible to stop . . . and I knew mom was not there to hug me and tell me it would be all right and there was no one else who could do that, who could feel my heart as it was breaking into a million pieces . . . I could not bear it . . . without MOM!

So – the “grief process” is different for each of us and
no one can say how long it takes to get to the point where the pain is bearable and the memories bring in comfort and joy for the time shared with the loved one . . .
no one can say how long it takes to get beyond the aches in the heart from the “I wish” list that overwhelm so completely . . .
no one can say how long it takes to reach the point where a “trigger of tears” becomes a “trigger of treasured times” . . .
no one can say how long it takes to move from grief of loss to loss of pain for my loved one . . .

the curtain has come down on the final act for my loved one and a new stage is being revealed slowly for me with space for the old and the new props, with scripts that review times past and doors to new times, and it seems I must choose where to place each piece to honor my loved one through the scenes yet to be and to show myself that the life of my loved one is going on in me . . . moment by moment as dark clouds shrink and sunshine grows to lighten my heart ever so slowly . . . healing will come as my love for mom will never die and, therefore, she will never be gone from me and the beauty of her memory will bring the healing to my broken heart . . .


Statues, Honor, and Back Roads

Today—STATUES seem to be a major topic of conversation and, to me, it seems like a bit of a distraction from what we really need to be discussing . . . back roads!

BACK ROADS are woven all through our country and most of us have traveled some back roads, those trails from one place to another, sometimes considered a shortcut and sometimes just known as a way to avoid a main road or a busy throughfare.

It seems life can be like that—main roads or back roads, shortcuts or long ways around, a choice of how to get from one place to another.

When I think about statues, I think about why a statue is erected somewhere—
• a marker of an event,
• a remembrance of a loss,
• a person being honored . . .
and it seems that perhaps many of our statues reflect taking a shortcut, a back road to get from one place to another.

Think about racism—
where do you go to if you want to see how we got here? Which road led to our current state of chaos and confusion? Which road that I did not even travel . . .
• the ancient history of slavery in many parts of our world
• Wounded Knee and other atrocities heaped on Native American peoples to expand our country
• the early slave ships bringing people to the “New World” to work the fields for plantation owners
• the Civil War with its many causes and issues
• the Reconstruction period with its extremes
• persecutions of Irish, Chinese, Japanese, and other “non-whites”
• the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the KKK, etc.
• the more recent violence against non-whites

I think our main problem today is that in most cases those involved took “back roads” to get through a time period of challenge and so avoided the “main road” where it would have been necessary to confront themselves and others and acknowledge the “wrongness” of their choices and make the ultimate sacrifices that would have made a definite course correction . . . because actually, we have consistently avoided taking responsibility for the mistreatment of and abuses of many peoples in exchange for getting something we wanted leading to many saying the “ends justify the means” — when it applies to others.

The “back road,” the shortcut, the way to travel unseen to where we wanted to get made it possible to avoid admitting any wrongdoing and saying we should just “move on” without paying the price that would have helped restore respect to those we abused and, ultimately, would have given us a priceless self-respect that is never found on the “back roads.”

The “back road” never required us to admit that we dehumanized the ones we wanted to take something away from, that we called them animals or less than human or a lower species which made it “right’ for us to get what we wanted at their expense—and then we put up statues of those who promoted our “back road” almost as a justifying symbol of the rightness of our “back road.”

It is time to step up to the main road where core values guide the steps as we:
—show the courage to identify the wrongs that have been done for centuries and work to prevent them in our world
—explore the seeds planted over all that time that now show up as deep-seated wrong thinking passed on from generation to generation
—reach beyond our fear to start living by the simple fact that all human beings should be treated as human beings, none “lower” than the other by nature of ethnicity
—remove the “back road” markers that honor wrong choices
—re-educate ourselves in light of the history of the “back road” journeys throughout history
—commit to living out the “golden rule” in ALL situations and hold each other accountable for staying on the main road

STATUES do send a message about who or what we honor
HONOR does send a message about who we are
BACK ROADS alert us to a need to review our journey since back roads are often poorly lit, winding, uneven paths which can lead to places we never intended to go . . .

We are stronger together if we
STOP . . . LOOK . . . LISTEN . . .
to each other respectfully and treat each other the way we want to be treated

thoughts: June 22, 2020/Jeanne Hicks-Barnett

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A Short Course in War — working

working on this one

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Racism Wrapped in Elitism

Your childhood memories and mine may reflect some of the same experiences and thoughts that need to be reviewed for seeds of “racism.”

Most would expect a child to be oblivious to the underlying racism of maintaining the “separate but equal” fallacy and living in a basically isolated “white society” without recognizing it as elitism (it was just natural, the way things were and should be).

My childhood taught me: Blacks shouldn’t sit in the same area of a theater as whites and they should enter by a different door to cut down on “contamination” – blacks should not be allowed to eat in the same area as whites in a restaurant but should be treated like other animals, eat out back – and the list goes on and on including not being allowed to walk down the same streets as whites or living in houses like whites or being lynched for entertainment or serving their only purpose which was to serve whites.

I would say: “I was raised in a fairly fundamentalist church culture” in mostly white Michigan, Indiana, and North Carolina. My dad and his father were both fundamentalist preachers and the “one-true-church” was central to our lives.

So, my childhood planted the idea that my church membership made me “better” than those who did not “belong” to the “one-true-church” and was only one seed in the elitism that was naturally mine to a large extent—I was white, born with white skin which automatically put me in with those covered by the founding fathers of our nation who defined white privilege, my birthright—clearly it did not apply to blacks.

I would like to share just a few thoughts about how racism can be buried under acceptability and how cognitive blindness provides rationalization to make us comfortable in denying racism which is dangerous to our growth as human beings.

Racism and elitism are “insidious” dividers and
it is vital that I understand these words
if I am to be able to explore my inner beliefs.

—insidious: operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect

—Racism: The belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them.

—Elitism: pride in or awareness of being one of an elite group

“Elitism” began being used in the 1950s as the struggles between “whites” and “blacks” became more obvious and led into the 1960s with many confrontations to establish control of society (KKK and white supremacy groups against Martin Luther King Jr., President John F Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson, and many others)—I lived through this time and would have denied being racist although I was a supporter of George Wallace and, as a high school student, listened to his speeches that encouraged pride in my race and my need to protect myself from the dark enemy of integration and all efforts to take away what was “mine.”

I changed my mind completely when the murders of three civil rights workers were revealed on my birthday in 1964
BUT my understanding was limited since I did not have to deal with being denied
• the right to vote or
• the right to live where I wanted to or
• the right to not be lynched or
• the right to travel or even walk down the street without fear of harm,
so it was fairly easy to be oblivious to it happening to others and it seems today to still be easy for whites to ignore and even justify those subtle markers, those mindsets that demean non-whites, and the going forward in our easy non-threatened lives “oblivious” to racist “seeds” within our subconscious.

I have to stand up and say:
racism and elitism are both alive and well today and we need to stop denying it.
I pray that GOD will
• open the eyes of our hearts to our own culpability,
that GOD will
• keep our hearts compassionate to the struggles of our neighbors,
and that GOD will
• draw us to respond within the filter of the “golden rule”

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you,
for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12

My heart cries out for GOD to open our eyes to ourselves . . .
not in judgment, but in opening the door to healing of all our hearts.

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Growing Among the Stones . . .

this seems to be at the heart of many social media posts and I think we need to really talk about it . . .

THROWING STONES AT PEOPLE is effective at keeping our attention off of important issues and out of the discussions of those issues = a great distraction technique.

• Pointing out flaws in others,
• creating stories woven into conspiracy theories, and
• stirring up negative emotions

keeps us from talking about:

ISSUES . . . here are a couple of issues that have been seriously impacted by dismantling our infrastructure:

• the AIR we breathe
& the WATER we drink
rolling back protections requiring corporations to decrease their pollution of our air and water increases the profits of corporations and shareholders AND increases our health problems and, in the long-term, impacts our survival

• education
the undermining of our public education system means increased profits for private schools and severely cripples available education for those unable to afford tuition taking us closer to a time in our early history when it was illegal to teach those considered “lower” class.

We need to resist this all too human tendency to point out flaws in others (and we all have flaws) and focus on issues that can impact our survival as well as the survival of our world.

Most of us did not live through the “Dust Bowl” time (1930s), but we could learn some lessons from it. There were a variety of causes: overgrazing, overplowing, severe drought, high heat and winds, grasshoppers and jackrabbits—some were from ignorance of good farming techniques, some were motivated by greed and some areas are still suffering from the impact of that time period.

Important lessons from the Dust Bowl: we need to protect our natural resources, recognize that greed-driven profits can result in destruction of ourselves (thousands of people died). We need to closely examine our use and care of our world not allowing greed/profits to be the determining factor in our choices, not allowing selfishness to blind us to all the “costs” of our choices.

Let’s stop throwing stones at people and start looking at issues and accept responsibility for our choices and their impacts and maybe take a closer look at our own motives!

not on the destruction of those with whom we disagree!

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It’s A Conspiracy . . . theoretically speaking!

THIS IS JUST A BEGINNING OF MY THOUGHTS … I am currently working on this one and will add to it as I work through my “investigative process” or delete it in despair if I cannot share any “reasonable” insights because I do not come to any conclusions I consider to be reasonable “conspiracy theory theories” in answer to my concerns.

An amazing number of conspiracy theories have been the subject of SO many social media posts (many from a couple of my family members) that I decided I needed to pursue this subject matter a little further and try to understand why they are putting these theories forth
• as facts and as ideas they believe and strongly support
• with threats of impending horrific doom if not recognized
• from YouTube videos, some of them pretty “slick,” from people claiming expertise but in a group I would label “questionable”
• with NO room for disagreement, contrary facts, or even questions about their “logic”

In an attempt to find out the thinking behind some of these posts, I have asked questions about the presenter in the video, done some internet searches and offered some “interesting” reports of the video being “false,” and–for my efforts, I have been called some very unkind and often coarsely-worded names which I cannot repeat SO I really do want to gain some insight into what is driving this serious uptick in conspiracy theories and why these people seem so ready to believe it and so dedicated to it immediately and trash me or label me crazy or part of the conspiracy when I do not agree with them! I want to know just what is going on???

A little personal background: I was a high school junior when JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and I heard the announcement over the loud speaker system at school telling us he had been shot. Me and all of my classmates were stunned to say the least and that moment is frozen in a frame in my mind. Over the following years, there were many questions about the Warren Commission and whether their report was accurate. Many conspiracy theories came out especially after Jack Ruby shot Oswald, the accused JFK assassin, right on our TV screens with police standing all around during his transfer. To this day, there are many conspiracy theories still making the rounds on this one and some are very interesting. It seems that, when a major trauma occurs, we have trouble accepting a quick, simple explanation and look around for answers that make more sense to us. When the subsequent assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., came along shortly after this one, it only seemed to increase the belief that one of the conspiracy theories was more likely the right answer.

However, in our current time, we have not had a major trauma–unless you count the 2016 election of President of the United States of America #45. So, why the tremendous increase in conspiracy theories that forecast doom and gloom and some “special” prescient knowledge by those sharing them? In the JFK conspiracy theories, it was usually about who did it and some had a warning about the perpetrator and maybe some future action by whoever that was, but nothing compared to the fear level generated and evidently intended and demanded by those sharing current conspiracy theories. What causes the difference today?

Is this, as suggested by some who are reviewing the current conspiracy theories, a politically-motivated movement to distract from the ineptitude of the current President or to keep anyone from looking too deeply into this administration’s activities or to draw attention away from the foreign intervention in our upcoming election that has been warned of since before 2016? Sometimes I think the only way to explain the amazing number of conspiracy theories today is by claiming to have a conspiracy theory . . . you know, a really huge master conspiracy theory to use conspiracy theories to cover up a conspiracy theory! Sounds like it might work pretty well since most of us “sheep” follow a pied piper fairly easily if he plays the right tune.




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