Preston

Preston came into my life the summer of 1998, the summer I turned fourteen. I was kind of caught between childhood and adulthood at that point. I couldn’t decided what I wanted more, to stay young or join the ranks of my friends who seemed to embrace young adulthood carelessly. So I had a foot in both doors. I was about to get a job at Culver’s, I began thinking about college and boys. I worked rigidly, diligently, at my academics and music. I was perpetually unhappy. But I believed, as long I was doing what teenagers did, I would be okay.

What made me really happy was forgetting all the demands and “shoulds”. Reading a good book, taking a bath, coloring, playing with my baby cousins or little neighbors, doing a jigsaw puzzle. Cuddling next to my mom in her bed and talking. Holding my dad’s hand. Or climbing the tree in my backyard just to see what I could see. Those were the happy times. When I could just be a little kid. But, of course, I rarely felt happy for long doing those things because I was fourteen and teenagers just didn’t do those things.

We were sitting in the minivan waiting for Mom and Dad. Greg, Tim and me. Nate decided he wasn’t coming to Illinois with us for our mini “family reunion.” He was trying to save money for college, so he decided to stay back and work. Mom and Dad left the house, chatting playfully. My mom, especially, had eyes full of wonder and a carefree expression on her face as she climbed in next to Dad.

Seeing Mom like that right before a road trip was not typical. But I didn’t analyze it too much, just enjoyed her strange but pleasant mood. I was looking forward to seeing my extended family, especially playing with my little cousins. Summers were great. I was away from the pressures of school friends and living up to all the “shoulds” I placed on myself.

When we pulled into my grandparents’ long windy black driveway after the three-hour drive, I noticed my elegant grandmother wandering around the yard with a little black dot hopping up and down wildly behind her. Everywhere she went the little dot followed. As we got closer to the scene, the dot turned into a small puppy. My heart rate quickened. It all made sense. Mom wanted to surprise us because her parents had gotten a puppy and she knew how much I loved dogs! Her good mood made sense now! I don’t remember what my brothers said, but I blurted out, “You didn’t tell us Grammy and Papa got a dog!” It barely registered when my mom, trying to suppress a smile, stated matter-of-factly, “That’s your dog.” We were climbing out of the car then, running toward the puppy. Before long, I was holding the little three-pound Yorkshire terrier as he nipped at my nose and licked my cheek. It felt like heaven.

I still didn’t understand. There’s no way Dad would let us take this little guy home, I thought. He was the reason I still didn’t have my puppy, my mom would always say. She and I would dream together, sometimes, scouring the newspaper ads for puppies for sale. We would talk about the different type of dogs we’d want to have and come up with names for our “dream dogs.” Mom would often tell me about her childhood dog, a Sheltie named Corky. I could tell she longed for a puppy as much as I did.

As the day went on, I discovered more and more details and things started falling into place. The puppy was bred by mom’s brother Uncle Bud’s two yorkies. My parents had been in touch with Uncle Bud for several months. That explained the frequent phone calls back and forth between Dad and Uncle Bud over the last several months. My parents had told Uncle Bud to pick out the runt to be theirs and to call him “Preston.” Preston was the name of the small town in Washington State where the four of us kids were born, a town dear to my parents’ heart. It turned out that the runt outgrew another puppy, Uncle Bud named “Hercules.” Uncle Bud got mixed up and began calling Hercules “Preston.” He discovered his mistake and told my parents. They decided it didn’t really matter, so the new runt became “Preston Hercules Bettger,” our dog.

When we walked into our house back in Wisconsin later that day, I still felt like I was living in a cloud. I carried little Preston up the stairs (he was too little and uncoordinated to climb them) and set him down on the carpet where he immediately began scouring his new territory. Entering the kitchen, I now saw why my parents had been late getting in the car that morning, exiting the house with masked grins and jovial moods. On the kitchen table lay a dog bowl, treats, a few colorful toys, and a books on how to train Yorkie puppies. On the floor sat a bag of puppy food, a comfortable looking dog bed and a tiny kennel. I imagined my mom, in her creative, fun nature, laying everything out, the way a chef might lay out a creative, colorful gourmet meal. The reality that I had a dog was beginning to set in.

I don’t remember much, except for pure joy. I must have hugged my parents again and again and thanked them profusely. My mom said, “It was your dad. He finally gave in.” To this day, I don’t really know how my mom talked him into it.

Life with Preston was like adding a never-before-seen color to my life. I didn’t realize how much fun and adventure a four-legged creature could bring to my life. I had always wanted a dog, but it seemed like a far off dream the older I got. I was head over heals in love with our puppy. My parents and brothers loved him too, but I began to think Preston and I shared a special bond. I found myself thinking about him all the time when I was at work or at some church event. I couldn’t wait to see his little wiggly body and feel his soft kisses on my nose. When school started in the fall, Preston was what I looked forward to most throughout the day.

Preston was my link to home and childhood, to silliness, to playfulness. To not wanting the world to change. He helped me stay sane because, with this little creature, I could tune out all my worries. I could focus on his cuteness, his beady eyes, the silky hair that fell over one ear and eye, the other ear perked up, how his little back half moved with excitement when you walked in the door. The look and feel of his impossibly silky metallic and mahogany fur. How it felt to have him jump up and try to lick/bite my nose. How his warm four-pound body felt cuddled on my lap. How it felt to take him on a walk and have strangers or neighbors comment on his cuteness.preston n me college1preston n me in HS

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Looking for Home

I used to be so at home on these pages.

Now I feel like a stranger wherever I go.

I could really come alive,

words were the only way to quench my thirst, sometimes

dripping, trickling

but often gushing, streaming

life-giving water for my deadness, a current

so straight and true I could always connect

anything that once seemed wayward, meaningless.

I would just feel whole, purged of the stains

of Haphazard emotions and Disastrous thoughts

Even now I am not free.

This writing is jilted

I always have to force myself to this page

Because I don’t want to face this pain

Not pain of the actual writing

But the catapulting piercing and raging pains of judgment

The judgements of this writing and of my soul behind it

Trying to scramble together any small thing I know about myself

I am so lost when I’m not broken

Because when I AM broken (again)

no one sees me as that anymore including myself

No more excuses for me.

Write the dead words

Pick up the pierce pulsating head

Move your weary body

Choose from your plethora of skills to combat that anxiety

Don’t ever let that negative thought win the battle

You can take the pain

You will push through this migraine

You will find a soft place to lay your head

A quiet haven for your restless mind

If you just look hard enough

I wish I could just forget, forget how to fight

So I could give myself a break for once

Sometimes I feel so trapped in my today, yesterday

And tomorrow

Back on dry land…and still conquering fears

Well, a lot has been going on with me since I got back from sailing. Or not. It would appear that not a lot is going on externally. But, wow, have things been changing internally. I wish I could be free to tell you all about it. But alas, no matter how private I make a blog, I still would not be okay just letting it all hang out. So if we have a relationship and you really want to know the deep dark depths of my soul, I will tell you. But you have to be willing to hear it. And there are probably only a hand select few that are…

Anyway, I can talk about some things. It’s so interesting how life stands still yet is crazy busy at the same time. Soon I will leave the standstill for the crazy busy. It is my last Friday before I start teaching again. I have enjoyed this summer so much. As I have stated before, I try to challenge myself each summer (e.g. the retreat I went on).

The sailing trip, although not super authentic (since we only put the sail up one out of three days) was still ultra hard for me and great experience. The main thing I hated endured liked was that I was surrounded by people in a rather confined space (the cabin of the 35 foot sail boat). I liked it because it caused me to really suffer, but in the end, I was better for it. The cabin was so tiny you would walk forward and be brushed on the left side by the table and on the right side by the bench. I was to sleep way in the front of the boat, the bow, next to my friend Linda. The two “beds” made a V. It was a little tight but rather cozy.

I liked being alone in the cabin. I noticed my heart rate was down and I was so much freer and lighthearted (this is typical for me-having limited space and feeling trapped especially when people are around is a huge contributor of my anxiety) . One day everyone was sitting on deck finishing lunch and I was below deck, listening to the extroverts gleefully chat away. People would hand me condiments, dishes, trash, whatever from above and I would gladly throw it, stow it, wash it, whatever.  I was happy as a lark in that kitchenette corner of that mini cabin. I guess this alone time was me getting my “fix” so that I would be geared up for the next challenge.

One of those challenges occurred on the first day, when Captain Joan informed me that I would be helping put up the sail. Internally, I was dismayed, thinking, what kind of vacation is this? I thought I would just be sitting around letting everyone else do the work. But, of course, the good hearted person that I am, I agreed.  Helping with the sail forced me to walk around on a jerky boat with no hand holds. Since I am not the most balanced person, I prepared myself for the worst: falling over board. The worst would be the feeling of falling and the cold water. But I knew I wouldn’t die and I had dry clothes on board so that was so reassuring. I was also in charge of doing the ropes when we “parked” the boat at each port. Captain Joan was a calm, patient and insightful teacher! She said I did a great job so that was encouraging. Plus, I never fell overboard. What a relief!

I liked touring the islands. Stockton Island was beautiful; it seems so unreal with all the spectacular flora and fauna that has now been preserved for over 30 years. I enjoyed some time away from the group and, as I hiked, I realized: as long as I am not lost (and fully prepared for hunger, thirst, bugs, bears, etc.) I LOVE THE WOODS! Especially being alone and being a part of something as untainted as this island: bright green moss, waving branches, scrambling critters, chattering birds, and the marvelous gray expanse of Lake Superior. Sadly, it was a gray day…

But we finally had sunshine the last two days (including my birthday!) The sky was spectacular! Probably out of all things in nature, I love sky and clouds the most! I could stare at a sky all day if my conscience would allow it. So it was an amazing birthday present.

Being with the group was great too. I especially like one-on-one conversations, so I tried to seek each person out and get to know him or her individually. It was kinda challenging! But I did learn about each person.

However, after (and maybe a little during) the trip, I said to myself, I will probably never do that again (that is, go on a boat for that many days with a bunch of people I don’t know), and I realized that’s okay! It was a great experience and I’m so glad I did it!

Since then, I’ve also done a couple other things that are challenging, such as being more involved in a new church I’ve been attending, agreeing to be the solo musician for a close friend’s wedding, making time for friends and family, writing (A LOT).

The biggest challenge was yesterday when I went to my first ever Ultimate Frisbee game. Yes, to play. Luckily I had a friend come with me. Other than that I knew NO ONE. (It is a Facebook group I am a “member” of). I am not very talented when it comes to sports, but I’ve always liked Frisbee. It was worse than I expected.  Everyone was so phenomenal. As we began to toss the disc around, my heart and thoughts were racing. I proceeded to make a total fool of myself because I have horrible performance anxiety. It didn’t help that almost everyone was a guy. What a great way to make a good impression, I thought, as I wobbled and whipped the Frisbee in all directions at one point hitting a little four-year-old (the son of one of the guys) in the head.

Yes, I know. Totally humiliating. My stomach is flopping as I remember it. I tried not to compare myself with everyone including the four-year-old who was a whiz at Frisbee. Instead, each time I attempted to throw the disc (not pretty), I kept telling myself, “Take it like a man” (i.e. don’t let them know you’re embarrassed) and reminding myself that God loved me and my worth did not depend on my Frisbee skills. But when we eventually started playing the game, it was much better and I enjoyed myself. And everyone was really friendly. (I would not have been so friendly and understanding to myself if I were one of them.) Luckily, most of the cute guys came later and they never saw how horrible I actually was. Ha ha.

Anyway, it might sound harmless, but to me it really was a big deal that I went because it demonstrated I can face my fears! And I never want to let fear get in the way of what I want to do, mainly have fun, enjoy life and build relationships with others.

Soon I will be starting my fourth school year (in this job) and my seventh year as a teacher! Wow, I can’t believe it! I can’t wait to see what other challenges lie in store for me! But for now, I’ll just sit and enjoy the chattering, fluttering chickadees, woodpeckers, sparrows and cardinals; watch my journal pages ripple in the wind; hear my calming wind chimes;  feel the breeze soothe my skin; hear how it rushes through the leaves. Aah, another heavenly moment of summer.

An Adventure Starts Today

I am about to embark on a new adventure. I have always challenged myself to do things that scare me. That’s one good thing about me. I don’t let my incessant fears and worries keep from doing (too many) things. Today I am “killing three birds with one stone.” As I’ve told people when explaining why this trip is exctiing and a big step for me.

The three  “stones” are

1) It is a writing retreat. A goal of mine has been to go on a writing retrreat of some sort.

2) We are going to the Apostle Islands. I’ve always wanted to visit there. I’ve heard it’s beautiful! I love traveling in general, but when it has to do with water and sunshine (hopefully), I am even more interested!

3) We are going sailing! Doing something I’ve never done before is a goal I have for each summer (and winter)! For about a year now,  I have thought sailing sounded fun. I feel safe knowing we are going with a trained Skipper.

Besides, my three goals I am fulfilling, I am also excited to get to know the “crew” better. They are members of my writing group I wrote about before. There are six of us going ranging in age from 29 (me) to 72!  I am excited to be challenged by them (I am always challenged by being in groups) and learning from their wisdom. Plus, we are all writers, musicians, artists, so have so many things in common. Finally, I am looking forward to growing personally in my faith in Christ and his power (especially through creation), through my writing and through my time of fellowship in an exotic environment.

I’m finally learning that God wants me to have joy and to enjoy my time on Earth. It’s been a slow realization but one I’ve started opening up to especially these last few years, since He helped kick depression out of my life. So here I go! I’ll let you know what I’ve learned. I have a feeling that something amazing will happen and I may not realize it for many weeks, months, years?? afterwards. God is such an awesome God and continues to work in every little (and big) moment in my life, whether I realize it or not. The great thing is that lately, I have been more in tune to Him and how he is working and how He has always been a steady presence in my life.

>Lonely but at Peace

>A few weeks ago I had the deepest feelings of loneliness I remembered having in a very long time. I cried and cried my heart out to God. I did feel sad but it didn’t feel like depression as much as just this aching emptiness. I was supposed to go to this event with a friend and she backed out of it at the last minute. It was a “Wellness Picnic” hosted by the chiropractor/wellness place I go to. And it was too last minute to ask anyone else, beside the fact that not very people in my life are interested in this sort of thing. For almost nine weeks I have battled internally if I should even be going to this place. Since I started going my anxiety and OCD tendencies (obsessive thoughts) have gotten way worse. I have been extremely ambivalent and pulled in two different directions, wondering if on the one hand I am going overboard with my health concerns (that are now obsessions) but yet wanting to take care of this body God has given me and seek solace and freedom from my many maladies. I have felt utterly ALONE in this process because everyone in my life is on one side of the fence or the other (the majority thinking this place has made me more anxious and obsessed and I should stop going).

SO the Saturday of the picnic when my friend (my one “health nut” friend who lives nearby) backed out, I was torn. My parents were in town and I knew I’d see them tomorrow but felt I “should” be with them instead of going to some thing where I didn’t know anyone. I did end up going and it was okay. The talk on “Spine Fitness” was good and I picked up some tips. But I didn’t meet anyone my age in my situation as I’d hoped. In fact there weren’t very many people there at all. I quickly got over my extreme sadness after the event and during work at the group home that evening.

But I still struggle with this intense loneliness off and on. Mostly due to this health battle, depression/anxiety battle, and what faith/God has to say about it. Feel quite misunderstood and discouraged by both the people who seem to know me and care about me best AND by these new people who I feel have some hidden knowledge and I’m struggling whether or not to trust them. Also because I don’t have a significant other with which to share these intense struggles. 😦

I don’t feel lonely very often because I am an introvert. Being alone is something I love. Even when I was seriously dating I had to be alone many nights a week (this drives a boyfriend mad, I realize.) I am so dragged down when I am around lots of noise, commotion, and chaos also because I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) (See one of my links to right if you’re wondering what that is.)

A blog friend of mine said to talk about my birthday party. I wanted to put up pics but I am house sitting so I don’t have them handy. I had a really crazy weekend (half of the events I’d planned ended up being cancelled due to a 3-day migraine–my body’s way of telling me “too much!” I suppose). But Sunday I was feeling better and had a birthday get together at a nearby place called Chatterbox Pub (I planned the event myself). I had written to God in my journal earlier, “I am going to have caffeine and maybe a little alcohol because I want to be like my outgoing, extroverted friends.” And, being that I am extremely sensitive to caffeine because I no longer have it, my one cup of tea had me wired for the evening! We had a great time. I couldn’t believe about twenty of my friends showed up. Less than two years and a few months ago, I knew only two of these people. I am very blessed that God directed me to the church I am at now (Woodland Hills) and these wonderful people. We had yummy food, played games and of course the best part: karaoke! Only a very few people were actually interested so that was a bummer, but we still had a good time. After there was only me and few people left, we decided to leave, but I still felt insatiable like I wished I could keep singing the whole night. I knew it had to do with caffeine and my love for singing, but this energy and desire kind of scared me. That night I ended up awake until 4:30 a.m. the next day but I didn’t even have a migraine the next day. Thank you God!

During my party I didn’t have any of the obsessions about food or health and really was able to relax with my wonderful friends. Even the food I had didn’t affect me negatively (like most restaurant food does). Hallelujah!

After that night, I felt a bit of a let down. Because as always I was searching for something to fill me up. Of course it wasn’t wrong to go out and have fun…but I can’t really get into that here. I spent a few days with my parents in WI and that was good. Now I am house/dog-sitting for some friends of mine and again feel kind of lonely but at the same time glad to have it quiet and relax some.

Lots of thoughts and some neck and hand pain (from typing) but I am so glad to be at peace now.

>What if I am Never Healed?

>

I recently finished this book. There are some profound things in here. I have always admired Lincoln because I believe we are very similar. He also has given me hope. If I, someone with depression, could achieve something an iota of what he achieved while suffering, I would consider my life great. Probably the most profound thing was found on page 156. The author, Joshua Wolf Shenk, states, (bolded, mine):

Many popular philosophies propose that suffering can be beaten simply, quickly, and clearly. Popular biography often expresses the same view. Many writers, faced with unhappiness of a heroic figure, make sure to find some crucible in which that bad feeling melted into something new. Lincoln’s melancholy doesn’t lend itself to such a narrative. No point exists after which the melancholy dissolved…Whatever greatness Lincoln achieved cannot be explained as a triumph over personal suffering. Rather it must be accounted for as an outgrowth of the same system that produced that suffering. This is not a story of transformation but one of integration. Lincoln didn’t do great work because he solved the problem of his melancholy. The problems of his melancholy was all the more fuel for the fire of his great work.

This was not something I heard for the first time, but an idea that has been rolling over into my head these past few months (and maybe even years): Can I live a successful life with depression? Or do I continually feel I need to eradicate depression from my life before I can live?

Well the truth is that I already am. That is, I already am living with depression. I have no choice at this point. This was made even more real to me after listening to Greg Boyd’s sermon (I listened to the pod cast since I missed the service.) It was entitled “Communion in the Wilderness.” Based on Luke 22:7-20, the Communion Supper, Boyd talked about the space in between when we take communion and when we finally arrive in heaven. He called it the Wilderness, like the Israelites experienced before they arrived in the Promised Land. He had a member of the church, Scott, come up and talk about his experience with MD (muscular dystrophy). Scott talked about how his whole life people would “pray over him” for healing, but he was never healed. In fact, his MD just worsened. Now Scott has come to the point where he has accepted his MD and when people ask if they can pray for him, he kindly says, “Thanks, but I don’t believe that is what God has for me at this point.”

Wow! Like Scott, I have been told in so many words that my life would be so much more amazing if I was healed, in my case, from depression. NO kidding??!!!?? I have always struggled thinking I have lack of faith because I continue to suffer. Like Scott, I often felt people were saying it was MY fault that I wasn’t healed.

On the other hand, am I just giving in to this depression because I am too weak to fight it?

Because of what GOd has been saying to me personally and through this book, this sermon and through the words of many people who, like me, haven’t found supernatural healing, I have come to believe this: It is okay that I suffer from depression; and that I may have to take meds my whole life. Each time my depression gets better , I often think, this will be the last time. But now I am starting to think, each time I go through another depression, I will come out a stronger person. And without my depression, I wouldn’t be the sensitive, bright, caring person that I am.

Not saying, I wouldn’t take away my suffering or that of others’ in a heartbeat. But what choice have I right now, except to live in and through what has been given to me? And who knows, maybe like Lincoln, I will accomplish something great, and my depression will be a part of that.