My Leap List

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finding My Strength in Bipolar Days

     Being in love with someone who struggles with being bipolar makes my life feel bipolar.  Today was a wonderful day with flowers and kind notes from my friends at work to celebrate Boss' Day.  It didn't even matter that I had to go to a meeting, take the train home, and then walk 2 miles back to work to present at community council meeting.  It didn't even matter that the people weren't happy to hear what I had to tell them or that I have another early morning meeting to present to the people who deliberately skipped the mandatory meeting I had yesterday.
     What mattered was coming home to find out that he had told his boss he was quitting...again.  We went through this a couple of weeks ago.  He said it was too hard and was going to quit.  They set up interviews and started moving forward.  Then he felt horrible and told them he would stay.  They were thrilled and stopped looking for anyone.  Today he changed his mind.  Nothing happened.  He loves his job.  He likes the people he works with.  When I asked him why, the only answer I got is "It's too hard."  When I said, "I thought things were going better now."  He said, "They were for a while."  When I questioned further it came down to the stress of yesterday when he had to get me from work, take me to the eye doctor, and then back to school for a presentation and today that he had to take me to a meeting.  Somehow those once in a while things the last two days have made it too hard to stay at his job.
     I got him this job with some of my favorite people in the world, and it makes me sick that I did because of what trouble this is putting them through.  I am sure when he stops being manic, he will change his mind, but I am also sure they are going to decide this is enough, and I can't blame them.  Looks like I am back to taking care of all of us by myself again.  I am learning so much about what love can do and the strength I have.  Now to refocus on all the good things in my life so I can share love and joy to everyone I meet tomorrow instead of darkness.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

How to Change a Life

     I live for those little moments in life when I can help someone else.  I don't really think about them much anymore because it is just part of my life.  It comes from a dark place, but I recycle it into my own version of light.  Because it comes from my darkness, I don't like to be noticed for it or be held up as an example.  I'm more a pay-it-forward kind of girl.  I am really bad at letting myself hear praise, which is funny because my tragic flaw is hubris.  The past few days have made me realize that as much as I hate having the attention, it is so wonderful to be on the other end and have the opportunity to tell someone the difference he or she makes in your life.  My friends Darci and Dena have been so wonderful at teaching me this lesson the past few days, but the best teacher is, as always, my kids.
     There is nothing like the little 1st grader I worked with last week coming up to me today and saying, "I like you, Ms. Cooke."  One of my former students was in my class for a few months before I left to be an administrator.  Now she is a 9th grader.  She messaged me to say that my compliment brought her to tears.  Then she gave me the best compliment that anyone can give.  She wants to be a teacher like me so she can inspire students and change lives.  If I do nothing else in my life, I have done this.    
     It's funny that all of these little things mean so much.  We may never know how today's actions change a life, but I am so grateful that all of you change mine for the better every day.  We all have this incredible power to hurt or help, to notice or ignore, to reach out or pull back, to shine the light for someone or dim it so ours shines brighter.  We all have more power than we can even imagine.  How we use it can change a life.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Death, Life, Desperation, and Love

     This week has been a tough one for life lessons.  I master one and start feeling a bit cocky in my growing abilities to deal with life, and then the tests get harder.  John and Mandy are manic the past few weeks and that brings its own challenges.  In my world, manic doesn't bring extra happiness and laughter.  Manic means thinking you are an expert at everything and no one else knows what they are talking about.  It means anger at little things that turn into big things.  It is thinking the world is against you and that no one cares about you.  It means taking life-threatening risks that you wouldn't usually take because in the moment you are invincible.  It is really hard for me because anything I try and do makes it worse.  So all I can do is breathe, send loving energy, and hold them close when they sleep.
     Nick has been worrying that he is bipolar, so Thursday we took a long walk together.  I told him how I knew he wasn't bipolar like his dad and sister.  He said it made him feel better, but I couldn't help but feel bad that I was having this conversation with him.  Like everyone's life, mine seems to have veered so far off what I had thought it would be.  I never dreamed I would be explaining things like this to my son or experiencing it with my daughter and husband.
      This week also brought a funeral.  John's aunt died this week and funerals are especially hard on him.  I went to the viewing Friday night.  His mom was struggling to walk, so I held her hand and helped her.  She didn't stay long because she was in so much pain.  She has been such an important woman in my life, and it makes me sad to see her suffering.
     At the funeral on Saturday my sister-in-law, Carrie, sat next to me and held her grandson and my baby nephew, Matthew.  He is only 2 months old.  It was such a juxtaposition of life and death listening to his baby cries mixed with the words of mourning.  The reminders of mortality are always challenging, and my friends reminders to just celebrate the time we have makes me feel like I am failing at one more thing.  It's an area I am still working on being better.
     Last night John and I took the kids to a play at an Off-Broadway theater.  As we paid for parking, a man approached us.  He was very literate and intelligent as he told us the story of why he needed money to go home.  His pain was evident from his words and voice.  The energy he was giving off was so much pain, it almost brought me to tears.  We gave him $20 and he almost started to cry.  Then he begged us to let him hug us.  I wasn't prepared for his energy and it was almost a physical pain the rest of the night.  I know that many of my friends and family will disagree with me, but I always help people in need when I can, even if they are taking advantage of me.  John has told me many times that if it weren't for me, his mental illness would make him be homeless and begging on the streets.  I have no doubt that is true.  Not because of anything I do, but because of the difficulties involved in taking care of someone who is bipolar.  There have been so many times that I want to give up or give in, but I keep going because I love him.  You don't give up on family.  So, I can't pass by someone on the streets who is not as lucky as the people in my world, in hopes that if my family is ever in this place, strangers will help them if they can.
     My friend sent me a kind message about how much I mean to her and all the great attributes I have.  This week I feel like it's all I can do to tread water and stay afloat, so the kind words made me feel like an imposter hoping that she doesn't find out the truth about who I really am.  I thought I was doing better at being me and accepting my flaws, but this week helped me see how far I have left to go.
     But as always, the darkness will turn, and we will see the sunrise again.  It's a new week and the fall colors are beautiful.  I have music and lots of love from my family and friends to help ease the burdens while I learn new life lessons.