And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

Lost in Space - remember that one?
"Danger, Will Robinson!"
Significant loss changes a person, I've been told. You spend the rest of your life finding out who you are now. Career, divorce, a death...these things have a lasting effect. Ignoring that fact not only doesn't help, it actually hurts.

Last night, who I was, or who I appeared to be, was not "sparkling," as my sister would say. First there was the blow-up with my teenage granddaughter, followed (after a bit) by my apology for getting angry. I assured her that what I had needed to say wouldn't have changed, or what I did, but I should have said and done those things without the anger. Anger = loss. That's just the way it is. If you get angry with a child, the opportunity for teaching and effective discipline is sucked into his or her vortex of snarkiness. You can hardly blame kids for being disrespectful when you give them the upper hand like that.

Just after that, I went to log on to my laptop and it politely informed me that my either my username or password was incorrect. Couldn't be my name, because I know who I am. I tried my password over and over. The computer thoughtfully provided a hint. Still, I was wrongwrongwrong. But it felt right. I knew it was right! I'd logged on a dozen times that day without a hitch. What had changed?

Obviously it was the computer. I ran a lengthy diagnostic - backup a sec. First I had to locate the book to tell me HOW to run a lengthy diagnostic. The grandson needed to get to bed - the granddaughter had already gone to sleep at the astonishingly early hour of 8pm (which explained HER snarkiness...the poor thing was exhausted!) - so I enlisted the husband's help (the daughter was taking a test at the college). Grandson tucked in, I used the desktop to find tech support, prepared for an online chat or phone call, saw a suggestion for bypassing a password, looked into that.

After hours...HOURS...during which I also deleted an enormous amount of junk the grandkids had downloaded onto the desktop, I thought to try another time. Months ago, I had dropped the numbers in my old password. Last night, my brain reverted to that time frame, insistent that the numbers belonged, when in fact, they did not. Without the numbers, I was in like Flynn.

Long ago Hollywood bad boy
Errol Flynn, accused (but acquitted)
of naughtiness with underage girls.
Wikipedia interruption:
"In like Flynn" is a slang phrase meaning "having completed a goal or gained access as desired". In addition to its general use, the phrase is sometimes used to describe success in sexual seduction, and its folk etymology often asserts the phrase has sexual origins.

Who knew? 

So this morning, the husband asks if I was able to fix my computer. "Yes," I said. "All I had to do was type in the right password." He knows me pretty well after 35 years, replying, "You need a day off." And he is correct.

That's what my brain does. Like a supercomputer that slows down while working on a difficult calculation, my brain can only deal with so much stress before it calls for a time out. Usually, it functions adequately. Stress overload, and I start forgetting appointments or losing track of passwords. It is my gray matters' alert system. Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! 

The first time I noticed this in a dramatic way was twelve years ago this week, and in the weeks to follow, for several months. Our son Adam died August 22, 2000. Grief took so much energy that my brain slowed down considerably. I noticed it at work. I noticed it at home. A sentence was difficult to put together at times. Already on a low dose of anti-depressant for Life, my doctor gently suggested I might need more now. He doubled the dose, and I saw a big improvement.

Even then, I heard comments to the effect that as soon as possible, I should get off "drugs." As if taking meds was a sign that I lacked faith, that I wasn't availing myself of God's everpresent supernatural help. Really? No one suggested that stop wearing contact lenses because God was enough. The chemistry of my brain was askew, and taking medication helped things work better. Since when is that a lack of faith?

I also bought a punching bag, taking out some of my pent-up anger - at God, at Ford (the faulty manufacturer of the Explorer, which went out of control, ultimately resulting in my son's death), at a few ridiculously insensitive people I had to face regularly - by pummeling 
it instead of exploding.

I turned to other things for comfort, too. 

About a year after Adam's death, 11 years ago, our OPO representative (the Organ Procurement Organization - Adam was an organ donor) called to check on me. I laughed at some comment and he said, "I'm glad to hear you're doing so well." I laughed again. "Let's keep this in perspective, Dave: I'm on Zoloft, I have a punching bag, and I drink." He laughed, then, too, saying he was going to remember that one, and tell the others he worked with. Maybe they still talk about the donor mom who didn't exactly go off the deep end, but definitely wasn't just wading.

I'm not on meds now, haven't been for years. The punching bag is no longer needed...oh, yeah, I still get angry, but I lean now toward other anger management tools: yard work, yoga, writing, exercise. I still drink, but it is because I want to, choose to, not because I have to. I actually like the taste of a nice glass of wine in the evening, or the combination of diet Code Red and hot buttered popcorn (still have to have comfort food some time!).

But then, this week, this anniversary week for the worst week of my life, hits and my brain goes to mush again. Twelve years into this process of getting to know who-I-am-now, and some things haven't changed all that much. I can take a lot, but only so much. Anything extra, anything at all, and my brain makes me stop and take inventory. Deep breaths, a little meditation (the Psalms are great for this), a glass of Cabernet, maybe a word game against my son on the phone...perspective is regained. The heart slows. Oxygen flows.

All may not be right with the world, but when I allow myself time to reboot, give myself permission to fall back and regroup, arrange a day off to look forward's not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. There are even quite a few sparkles...and the blacker the sky, the brighter the stars appear.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Abigail Rocks the House

I've always been fascinated by the wives of King David in the Bible, and not because I married a man named David. Even before that, as a teenager, it seemed to me that sermons at church frequently focused on the shepherd boy-turned-ruler of a country. If you do a search, you'll find my take on Michal, David's first wife. (I think she gets a bum rap most of the time.)

After David fled for his life - his father-in-law, current King Saul was out for blood - Saul gave Michal to another man. David and his merry men had adventures, tried to stay safe. David wrote psalms along the way. And then he met Abigail.

You know those scenes in cartoons (or now, with special effects, just about any kind of movie) where eyeballs pop out when a beautiful woman or other object of desire shows up? Ah-OO-ga. Maybe that happened with David when Abigail said hi. Whoever wrote down the story didn't elaborate.

Abigail is actually the subject of an ongoing, pseudo-scholarly debate. And by pseudo-scholarly debate, I mean "some people need to get a life and stop arguing about things that don't matter." Does it really affect us one way or the other if Abigail was a manipulative, rebellious bitch or if she was a the greatest thing since sliced bread? And I don't even prefer sliced bread. I like those round tins of Hawaiian bread heated up and broken off in chunks.

But I digress. (I wrote this entire blog once already, and managed to delete it by mistake. I am still bitter.)

Seriously, if you google "Abigail David" you'll get an eyeful. Even more of an eyeful if you add "Bill Gothard" to the mix. Bill is the head of Institute in Basic Life Principles, aka a cult, aka the greatest thing since sliced bread, depending on whose opinion you read. He's always been very big on authority and God's government, and he holds conferences (live or video), has beautifully illustrated materials, and generally....and remember, please, I'm going back decades to when I attended one of these things...makes a lot of sense. Most of the time. Bear in mind that I was never part of the organization, never homeschooled through them, didn't get entrenched. I just went to a seminar and took notes, ordered a few books.

FYI, if you follow the Duggars (of "19 and Still Counting" fame) on reality TV, they use Gothard's curriculum to homeschool. I would say something snarky about your needing to get a life along with the pseudo-scholars, but I would be digressing yet again.

Even way back then when I went to his seminar, however, the whole Abigail thing was disturbing.

Other ministers may say this about her: The story of Abigail in the Bible ... is a story of one of the most faithful and honorable women mentioned in God’s Word – definitely a woman of integrity! (Mike Riley, but Bill Gothard paints her as a rebellious, manipulative woman who took initiative apart from her husband's wishes, and ultimately paid the price.

Not sure what he was smoking at the time, or what version of the Bible he was reading, but Abigail saved lives, garnering high praise from the guy who was anointed as a boy by the prophet Samuel to be king. So there. Yes, she was clearly codependent, but this is a story of victory over codependency.

In a nutshell: David and the guys come onto the land of Abigail's husband Nabal and send word through servants, requesting food and drink. It's shearing season, they promise to be good little boys and help protect the flock while they camp, and in that time and in that culture, the hospitality they sought was a no-brainer. It's possible Nabal had even heard of David - if a little boy kills a giant, it would probably get around, yes?

Nabal flatly refuses, clearly avoiding the DBAA rule (Don't Be An Asshole). David goes ballistic. Heads will roll. Literally. Somebody gets word to Abigail who, as the codependent of her drunken asshole of a husband, is the go-too girl around the house. She Who Gets Things Done. And she does.

Soon, Abigail is bowing down to David, begging for mercy for her husband:
“Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.  Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.  And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you."
The "fool" comment was probably what got Bill Gothard's knickers in a twist. Submissive wives do not call their husbands fools, even if they are. Certainly not to others. Abigail gives them all the food and booze she's brought, David praises her, no doubt taking note of her beauty and magnificent fawns (what his son Solomon will eventually refer to breasts as, in The Song of Songs). End of story.

Until the next day, when Abigail confesses to now-sober hubby that David has agreed not to cut off Nabal's genitals and stuff them in his mouth or set their home on fire or slit everyone "from his guzzle to his zatch," as James Thurber would say.

"Oh, honey, how can I ever thank you?" said Nabal. Well, not quite. Codependents don't usually receive gratitude, even when they solve the latest in a series of problems. What actually happened was that Nabal got really mad. Really, really mad. So mad, in fact, that he dropped dead on the spot.

That's what we call karma. Reciprocity. Sowing and reaping. Whatever your preferred lingo. He got what was coming to him, but everyone else was spared.

David was headed out of Dodge when he got the word. Maybe he was tied up with Important Business, maybe he wasn't always the prince of a guy we usually think him to be, but he sent word back to Abigail, not exactly asking for her to marry him. More like assuming she would want to be. Just widowed, with land and property and miserable years leading up to this moment, and she jumped at the chance.

Elsewhere in this blog, I think I've mentioned the fact that Rapunzel (I read this in a book by Sue Monk Kidd) had the power to escape all along. She could've cut her hair, made a rope, and climbed down from her prison of a tower, instead of waiting for someone to rescue her. A case could be made that Abigail had been like that, waiting for Prince Charming to ride up, but remember, Abigail didn't know Nabal would drop dead. She'd probably prayed he would, been praying he would for years, but she did what she did expecting to stay with Nabal until she died. And David didn't ride up to the tower, either.

Abigail found a way out, and took it. I hope she was happier. We can read that David took other wives: Ahinoam, Bathsheba. several others. He even brought Michal back, successfully ruining her life after finding actual love with another man. Plus the concubines. Abigail's life A.D. (after David) probably wasn't great, but it was a decision she made for herself.

Codependents may go an entire lifetime without ever  choosing freedom or personal health. 

Abigail rocks.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012. Permission to use with acknowledgement of source.