Sunday, September 17, 2006

One of my life's mission statements-

I have never formally written down a life mission statement, but it could easily be done if I wanted to do so. I hold some firm, core beliefs in life, especially those that have proven themselves true in my life since the tragedy that claimed Teagan's life and shook things up for me and my family for quite some time.
I get so many emails each week from people I don't even know, telling me how I've changed their outlook in life for various reasons, or they thank me for being an inspiration to them. It never ceases to amaze me, that simply living life the way I do, can change another person's life. Especially since I may never meet these people (maybe it's YOU!) or even talk to them in person, and yet they are moved by my ordinary life.
One of the things that always jumps out at me and I almost always respond to is the line when someone says, "I couldn't do what you have done" or "I wish I was as strong a person as you are". I am quick to let others know that I have relied heavily on my faith in God, my belief in Heaven, and with a lot of prayers from family and friends. But beyond that, I have had to adapt and modify my thinking and my views about life, happiness, justice and other things in life that were affected by my personal tragedy.
One of the hardest things for me to accept in light of our incident, was that no matter what Chip and I did in life from July 29, 2001 on, was forever affected by what happened in one single moment on that sunny afternoon. Up until that day we had been living a fairly quiet, easy life. Sure, we had our struggles and concerns, but for the most part, we had been shielded by evil and pain in life. So, when it struck us in such a horrible way, I knew it was going to take every ounce of the two of us to get back on our feet.
Okay. I'm not sure why I am posting this today, but it's been on my mind for awhile I guess, and I love getting my stories down (in writing) and out (of my head). Part of this may have been shared here at Nitty.Gritty. before. I find I repeat things a lot...or at least parts of my stories overlap. If it sounds familiar then, it just may be. This story started when I was overwhelmed with my pain, grief and sorrow, and truly couldn't see that life held any meaningful purpose or bright spots in my future-ever. Teagan had been the source of energy and joy for the most part of 4 years in my life, and suddenly she was gone. My mind couldn't imagine life being the slight bit fun or happy without her. She was joy to me. I was sobbing in bed one night, trying to think of nothing, because my reality was too painful to even think about. I was trying to fall asleep, but I had only vivid pictures in my mind of what I had lived through just days earlier. I couldn't escape this new, horrible reality, and so I sat there on the edge of my bed, shaking with tears running down my cheeks. They burned and I didn't care. They made my head pound and my heart throb. I didn't care. They made me want to scream. They made me want to never utter another word. I sat on the edge of my bed, knowing I could have called a hundred people at that moment of the night and they would have listened and cried with me. Or come over and held me. I simply didn't care. I hurt so badly, that I didn't want to feel anything. Out of that bleak moment, I picked up a blank book and wrote some of my thoughts and feelings.
I had an empty journal sitting on my nightstand- knowing at some point I would want to start writing down what's inside. I've done it since about the third grade. That night, I opened my journal and started to write a few paragraphs...just to get them down and out. By the end of the first page I had already written down the words that have truly shaped my life as it is today. I had been given stacks of books and pamphlets from friends and physcotherapists about topics such as the stages of grief, the death of a loved one, dealing with trauma and living with pain and loss. They were all well-intentioned, and probably had some helpful information inside their pages for me, but I was not about to read someone else's take on my situation. I wasn't looking for answers to my problems. Nope. By the end of the first page in my journal, this is what I had written...
"How about joy? That's what I need. Joy in the midst of trauma." I decided that I would simply have to write my own book. There didn't seem to be any like that in the pile of books lying next to me. That's part of my story of how I coined one of the statements I have come to believe and live by everyday since my tragedy. It's this: "Sometimes you have to create your own joy"; or even just "create your own joy".
I have found that in life's darkest moments, or deepest hurts or most troubling experiences, that no matter what it is, we still have the option to 'choose our response'. My circumstance in life at that time made it almost impossible for me to have joy, but with God, my husband, and friends and family, it WAS possible. Sometimes it meant I had to put my own pain and feelings aside. Or even do something that brought joy to others, because that helped me to realize that joy did in fact still exist. Even if it wasn't for me, I could see that it was out there, and it helped me to want to find it all that much more.
Here's an example. About two months after Teagan died, Chip still couldn't work (he had 8 fractured ribs, multiple facial injuries, internal his golf course was closing for the season) and I still couldn't even make a peanut butter sandwich for lunch without falling to pieces, we sat at our kitchen table wondering what to do with ourselves. We were struggling with feeling differently about how to 'move on' and were beginning to discuss what to do for the holidays- without Teagan. We were getting frustrated with the legal proceedings against the woman who had killed Teagan, and we were trying to figure out what "normal" in life would ever look like again. Basically, we were not a pretty sight, and remember? I didn't care anymore. Life just plain hurt.
If my memory is correct, Chip is the one that said, "This isn't working. We have to do something ...we can't just sit here and be sorry for oursleves the rest of our lives." I'm sure I smarted off to him with something like, "Why not!?" Which probably made him even more mad, and that wasn't helping the healing process- at all. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was we were simply exhausted from being sad and angry and depressed and heartbroken. But whatever it was, our fate changed that day. Our local radio station was holding a Rotary Radio Auction. You could call in and place bids on hundreds of items and services that various businesses had donated from around town. Well, it just so happened that Chip and I had received gifts of money in several memorial cards when Teagan died, and we still had a chunk of change sitting there. We didn't want to just 'blow the money'...we wanted it to be meaningful or honoring to Teagan's life. So, that day, we had the first glimpse of joy in life, and it was the first time I put my motto 'create your own joy' into practice. (I didn't even know it would be a guiding principle in my life at that time, but I lived out the truth of it that day.) We sat next to the radio with our phone and list of items we wanted to bid on and over the course of the next 8 hours, we won things like a dozen (jumbo!) cookies each week from the local bakery for a year, or miscellaneous gift certificates. We spent the next year using up all sorts of interesting items and services, or gifting them to others... honoring Teagan's memory and giving back to the community through this charity- the people that were praying and holding us close at this time in our lives. Those dozen cookies each week were one of the best things we could have done in the midst of our grief. It forced us to leave the house- at least once a week. =) That in itself can be a hard thing to do when you're overwhelmed with pain. So, we would go and pick out our cookies (like White Chocolate/Dried Tart Cherry or Macadamia Nut/Toffee), and then we would go to a business or person in town who we felt we 'owed' a thank you, or simply wanted to acknowledge all they had done for our family. The first dozen cookies we brought to the ER staff at our small Gaylord Hospital. We know that we can never repay them for how they helped our family and the others involved in our tragedy that July day. What we got were lots of smiles and hugs and even some tears- from the people who had seen us at our physical worst. We went home that day realizing that we didn't have to do what we were doing. Nobody expected us to be bringing cookies to them after all we had just been through, and were still going through, but it made us realize that we were capable of affecting our lives and those of the people around us in a positive way. It gave us a tiny bit of control over the ache we were feeling inside. It made us realize that in spite of our pain, we could produce joy and happiness in others.
I suppose that was the day I realized that I didn't want one person's actions (that of the driver that killed Teagan) to control my feelings and choices the rest of my life. I took back a tiny bit of the power that I was feeling had been ripped out of my hands when Teagan died. It was the day that Chip and I realized that we were going to have to fight for goodness and happiness and joy and it was going to be a challenge to hold our marriage together and our moods and emotions somedays...but that it was going to be more than worth it in the end.
You know now, five years later, that we are already finding that realization to be true in our lives. And (hopefully) we're nowhere near the end. When I say 'end', I'm referring to the eternity I plan to spend in Heaven forever. That's when I believe I will truly feel the complete joy that I am seeking and creating and enjoying each step of life's way.


Anonymous said...

Jody, Your pain and loss added together with your learning to 'give' of yourself seems a miracle to me...lossing Teagan must be so totally horrible I do not know how you can function ..yet I know with the Lord all is possible.... I am suffering through a horrid time with a grown daughter and her life choices that are hurting her children...feeling very useless to help have given me 'hope' and for that I thank from a mom ..

Anonymous said...

Jody: Don't you just feel sometimes that the only thing we can hold onto in the midst of the pain in living this earlthy life - even if we have great families, great careers, etc. etc. etc. - is our heavely eternity? Because that kind of peace is NEVER going to be with us here on earth, no matter how much we try to make meaning and enjoyment in our days here. Sometimes, we just want to "have something to look forward to" if you know what I mean. Feeling sad tonight......J / Anonymous :(

Andrew said...

That is a wonderful insight, about not wanting to give power over you to another. I wish more people would come to that realization - it could help out SO much in terms of people letting go of anger, grief, sadness. It's not easy but it's better than the alternatives.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

paula said...

what one person can pass along to so many like myself who has been struggling with all sorts of issues lately, you have given me an enormous gift today. I feel whole again after reading your blog today as I do everyday! thank you Jody! Paula

nicki said...

You are an amazing , amazing person. I wish you would write a book, I would be first in line to buy it. You have created some joy in my life today! :-)

Bethany Rinn said...

Jody, I absolutely love reading your writings. You are such a blessing to so many people. You demonstrate exactly the words in the New Testament (I or II Corinthians)--"the Lord will never give us more than we can handle"--but the key is that He won't give us more than we can handle WITH HIM. Blessings to you! Fondly, Bethany Rinn

Kari said...

Your words have touched me and yes, I have sent you an email expressing my thoughts to you. You were...still are...and always be a mighty woman of God. Thanks again for being you. P.S. I would be first in line to read your book too! You have an amazing way with words.


Anonymous said... I received this "devotional" and immediately thought of what you'd written in your blog and wanted to respond with this. It's a great devotional that comes via the "net" and at times gives so much encouragement with just a few words. Thank you for sharing your heart!!!

+Living Life God's Way+

The secret of the mystery is: God is always greater.
No matter how great we think Him to be,
His love is always greater.
Brennan Manning

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
Psalm 19:8
We all desire to be happy and have our hearts filled with joy. We search endlessly for it, as if it were our ultimate goal. The truth is that joy comes in the midst of our day-to-day routines, as we are following the will of God. It is found in our service to God; and in the midst of any circumstance. The success we seek is not necessarily where we will find happiness. There is great joy to be found in this life, but it is not dependent on our wealth or success, but on our service, dedication and obedience to God's will in our life. God is the Creator and owner of all things. It is not things that make our hearts fill with joy, yet as we press toward the goal of the high calling of God through Jesus Christ, we experience true joy that is delivered to us from the heart of the Creator of all things. True joy fills our hearts with a hope and happiness that surpasses anything in this world, and provides us strength to endure and be content in all things.

God Today Devotions; 5/30/2006

Ashley said...

Having lost my own husband to leukemia, (which in no way compares to the loss of a child, I might add), he at the age of 26, I was 25...I too remember feeling that I would 'always' have a dark cloud over me. And would I ever feel sheer happiness, with that dark cloud over me? Well, 9 years, another husband and 2 kids later, I know an unbelievable happiness, with a little bit of bittersweetness mixed in. But I do know that my wonderful memories of my life with him are a lot more vivid than my memories of his 4 day illness. And so yes, I agree that you can create a life of happiness in the midst of a sorrowful past.

K :) said...

Jody, once again I find your words full of inspiration! Exactly what I needed on this Monday morning. I look forward to the day that you choose to write a book...I know it will be wonderful and inspiring for so many. You are a "Joy"!!! Thanks for blogging.

Kristine said...

Truly, creating your own joy is acting instead of reacting to the circumstances surrounding you. It is an amazing choice, one that will impact your life through eternity. The example and wisdom you are showing your children through your action to choose and create joy is one that they will bless you for in years to come. May God continue to bless you and your choices to influence others in a beautiful, positive way.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think you write just for me!

You mentioned never actually "knowing" the people who's lives you touch via your blog and yet yesterday's post was exactly what I needed to read and what I'm trying to tell myself. This isn't the first time I've read what you've wrote and thought 'how did Jody know that I needed to hear this today?'

(I don't mean to sound selfish when I say you write for me.)

I often find myself dragged (or is it drug?) down by the little things in life and well, as you know it can cause a mess of a downward spiral. I've hit rock bottom. There's nowhere for me to go except UP.

From here on out I have to create my own happiness. I can't sit around and wait for someone else or something else to make me happy.

Thank you for your regular reminders!

~Signed by a regular reader who's not signing a name today.

Maija said...

It's amazing how things relate to one another - call it coincidence if you will. After reading your piece today, over lunch I began reading an article in a women's magainze that talked about joy and sorrow & that they cannot be separate, as well, and referenced a writer, Kahlil Gibran. So, I looked up his full poem that the article mentioned & here it is (I thought it reflected so much of what you were saying & I love some of the imagery especially the part about "asleep on your bed"):

Joy and Sorrow

Then a woman said, 'Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.'

And he answered:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than sorrow,' and others say, 'Nay, sorrow is the greater.'

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Kahlil Gibran

Andrew said...

Hi Jody,
Thank you for visiting my site and for leaving such a nice comment. I appreciate it! And you are so right ... the media has a huge influence.

All the best,

Trace said...

Wow girl! All i can say is WOW!