“She Is We” is published here: Lets Get Mentally Fit

Lets Get Mentally Fit is a nonprofit organization, created by Kela Price, dedicated to empowering people to make mental fitness lifestyle changes that will enhance their quality of life. Kela has spent many years donating her time and attention to the mental well-being of others, and I am honored and grateful to be a contributor for her cause.

~Chick Hughes

She is mom. Wife. Business woman. Delicate flower. Steel tower. She struggles to raise grounded amazing little people in a world of chaos, to contribute to a highly competitive career world, to tame the mom guilt that is a bi-product of her career, to maintain a hot, steamy relationship with her spouse of umpteen years, to convince her pig-headed toddler to eat the damn peas…and then she, one day, finds herself pining away for that sassy young anti-pea eating activist after he becomes a surly teenager with an endless array of new challenges to present to her. So many balls to keep in the air. So. Many. But she does. She may falter along the way. She may doubt herself. A ball may slip here or there. But she’ll catch it, and she will toss that ball back into the ring with grit and gusto. Because she is a circus juggling phenomenon. It IS her circus. It IS her monkeys. She is juggler and ringmaster.

She is every woman.

And these are just the given day-in and day-out struggles. She may also find herself going head to head with some of life’s more generous and bountiful gifts…like the gut-wrenching death of a close family member, a debilitating depression following childbirth, a life-altering cancer diagnosis, a messy minefield of a divorce, a 2-headed monster called co-parenting, that famed mid-life crisis she keeps hearing about, a moment of pause when she looks in the mirror and wonders “Who the hell are you…and why didn’t you bring a younger, hotter, bouncier body with you?” The list of hits just keeps coming for her, as she incessantly treads water…both familiar, and not.

But she is every woman.

There are times she will feel inadequate. Alone. Unsuccessful. Terrified. Unqualified. Misunderstood. Taken for granted. Lost. She will join the sisterhood of bathroom hiders, wine soothers, and private sobbers. She will cry it out. Confirm to herself that life is over…that she is all alone. Once she feels she has successfully won this argument with herself (and the wine is gone), she will pull it together. She will regroup, refocus, and reassess the situation. She will understand that balls drop because of the gravity of life. She will wipe her tears and put in check her fears. And then she will realize that she was never, in fact, alone.

Because she is every woman.

She is stronger than she knows. Braver than she feels. Smarter than she thinks.
More badass than she believes. And more resilient than she ever thought possible. It is her strength, her bravery, and her brains that will pick up the dropped balls and get them back into her juggling act. But it is her resilience that will restore her confidence after the fall. It is her resilience that will bring her back to her center, back to herself, ringmaster. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It is the act of “bouncing back” post traumatic event. And bounce back she will. Each and every time. Back into the ring.

For she is every woman.

Speaking as a mom who has had more than a few balls to juggle, I can attest to the excessive and rotund plumpness of some. For example, the depression after the birth of my extremely premature one-pound son who wasn’t supposed to make it, the doctor’s emotionless newsflash that this very stressful pregnancy would be my last, the impossibly devastating decision to help my baby sister pass in peace after months of suffering on life support, the mid-life crisis complete with a career hop into the medical field (fueled by my sister’s passing) and the struggle of knowing that I had absolutely zero medical knowledge at the time, the ever dreaded breast cancer diagnosis that derailed everything familiar to me for a short time, and even the narrowly escaped divorce. Throw in there raising a beautiful adopted daughter who has challenged everything I thought I knew about life, and you have the new me.

She is me.

The new…older and more tired, yes…but more self aware, more attuned to my own mental strength, more experienced, more confident, more determined than ever…me. She has learned what she never knew about herself. When faced with adversity, it is our instinct to look externally for strength, for peace, for advice. But true resilience comes from within. She has only to look in the mirror to find what she’s looking for. That woman looking back at her…she has always been there…just past the insecurity and fear. Just past the veil of uncertainty. She is brave. She is strong. She is smart. She is resilient. And the sooner she knows this, the sooner she can get back to her juggling act. Her monkeys are waiting. They are in place…most likely the wrong place. But, the show must go on.

And it needs its ringmaster.

She is you. She is me. She is we. And we are resilient.

Juggle on.

Chick Hughes

The damp, dreary black of night, heavy with humidity, mirrors the state her heart. She buries herself under the bundle of bed sheets and blankets as if they shield her from the outside world. The sounds of raindrops dancing on the rooftop aren’t enough to help Madeline sleep tonight. But they never are anymore. She remembers when they were enough to make her forget where she was, even who she was, as she lost herself in the tantalizing tango from above. When they were soft and soothing…her eyelids their puppets as they willed her to sleep. But the rain no longer has that effect on her.

Since he left…every sound, every sensation was a reminder that he was gone. She could no longer disappear dreamily into the rain dance over her head. No longer sway gently in her dreams to the romantic raindrop rendezvous. Now it was different. Now she was a prisoner trapped inside the tango, unable to dance along…being tossed around in the chaos that is her heart. The raindrops and the metal rooftop colliding with heated intention and frustration, building her up only to let her down over and over again in cyclical misery.

There was pain in the rain. Pain in everything, now.

He was her best friend, her soul mate. Though she had never believed in soul mates, her connection with Trey challenged everything she thought she knew to be true. It was one of those things that a girl doesn’t believe in until it stares her square in the eye, stands its ground, and double dares her to doubt. Double dare or not, she did doubt. It wasn’t in her nature not to question. She could no sooner ignore her skepticism than she could stop breathing. So doubt, she did. Her heart and her gut, all the while, whispering to her that he was her soul mate, that the magnitude of this connection could be nothing less. But her brain, more trustworthy, continued to cast doubt with a louder, more authoritative inner voice. Surely she was just clouded by love and infatuation. Surely. How could she have fallen so hard, so quickly? She tried to convince herself that he had fallen just as hard. That he had to be feeling the same thing she felt. And she did for a while. But somehow she knew that her heart would pay the price for the charges her brain kept tallying. And just as she knew it would, the bill had finally come. And it was heftier than she thought. She wasn’t sure she would ever pay it off.

They had met 4 years ago. It was an accidental meeting. Right place, right time. Neither of them was looking. Yet it seemed they were drawn together, as if they were the last two creatures alive. The spark was instant. The flame, inevitable. From the moment they met, she craved more. Each hour spent with him only fed her addiction. She was starving and he was her nutrition. And she was sure she was his. Each time Trey touched her, she felt electricity that she had never known before. Each time he spoke her name, she felt she had never heard it spoken with such command and desire. With every meeting of their eyes, there was his soul…greedily drinking hers in as if his life depended on it. The sound of his voice was intoxicating to her…making her drunk with anticipation. They spent the next 4 years learning everything they could about each other. They needed to know every detail, big or small. Every flaw, or strength. Every humiliating story, or triumph. Every ambition, or disappointment. Every fear. Every laugh. Every turn on. Every turn off. He was the only person on Earth who knew her deepest, most private thoughts…with whom she trusted her innermost self completely. They shared the darkest of secrets they both knew could never be uttered to another living soul. And then there was the sex… When they made love, it felt as if she was more naked than she had ever been. Both physically and emotionally. They connected on a level so transcending, it seemed to defy possibility and mock all of their previous human interactions.

Trey and Maddy had quickly become a dance. When one moved, the other moved. When one reached, the other grabbed hold. They trusted one another with anything. With everything. They seemed to have no choice. Feeling bigger than the two of them, the universe had connected their cores. It had connected their hearts. There was some gravitational pull that kept their souls dancing along to a song only they could hear.

For Maddy, everything made sense with him around. Her purpose. Her existence. Life not only made more sense with Trey. It made her happier than she ever knew she could be. She never imagined something so perfect would ever end. Not really end.

But on a regular Monday, with no forewarning, it did just that.

Suddenly, Trey just disappeared from her life. She didn’t realize this immediately, of course. She called him, sent him flirty texts. But nothing. After days turned into weeks with no response, she became increasingly worried. Increasingly empty.

She did finally get one text from him, but only one. Three words, to be exact.

“I just can’t.”

She tried to talk to him…ask questions, beg for answers. But nothing. She had no idea what had changed. Nothing had happened, nothing she knew of… One day they were dancing along perfectly in sync. And the next, he had left the dance floor.

Time passed.

Trey didn’t call. He didn’t text. No apologies, no reasons, no regrets, no maybe laters, no anything. He just walked away. Why? Had she done something? Had he done something? Why didn’t he say goodbye? To Maddy, this was what hurt the most…the nothingness. Just. Nothing. Everything they had shared, the intense connection that rocked her existence, the love that followed…seemed to mean nothing. She had put her heart, raw and dependent, in his hands, with complete trust and confidence that he would keep it beating. He hadn’t. Everything they had, everything, had vanished.

It took, with it, all of her.

She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. She could only feel. But feeling was too painful…too debilitating.

Her brain had convinced her heart of only one possibility. One possible explanation that flipped her insides upside down, stole her breath, and suffocated her heart with callous malice.

He had never loved her…

The raindrops are getting more intense. Maddy is trapped inside the, now, one person tango that is her heart. Unable to sleep, she tries to make sense of her heartbreak. It never comes. Frustration and loneliness. These are her dance partners now, as she steps on her own toes and falls time and time again. She lies in bed, predicting and dreading each and every treacherous raindrop.

Maddy pulls the cover over her head to escape the rain…to escape the dance…to escape Trey.

The drops are slamming into the rooftop as if begging to be let in. As if the world outside is too intense. And they, like her, need to escape.

The rain continues. The pounding on the rooftop. The pounding on her heart. No peace. No rhythm. No purpose.

She surrenders to the tears that are now refusing to be restrained. To her heart that is refusing to be silenced. Her tears become the rain. Her rain drags on, exhausting her.

And just like that, the rain stops.

The dance is done.

She lies there in the heavy darkness…listening to the silence.

Longing for sleep.

Longing for the dance that once was.
For the music she may never hear again.

Sleep found her…

Maddy woke to the chirps of her resident blue jay. He was at his usual post…a branch nestled inside the towering red maple tree outside her window. His chirps were an insult to the sadness she had committed herself to indefinitely. Damn bird. Damn happiness.

She rolled over to check her phone. Her phone illuminated one single text. From Trey.

“Hi.”

~Chick Hughes

Birthdays are celebrations of life. But even in death, one’s life and memory can be celebrated.  My baby sister would have turned 40 today.  Five years ago, she celebrated her final birthday in a hospital, hanging on to life support.  She left behind her precious kiddos and family who miss her more than she probably ever thought possible.  As my sister and I were learning to juggle kids and family in our 30s, we were also slowly learning to appreciate this complicated dynamic called sisterhood…which had been strained for so many years.  We were only beginning to understand that the little things are just that…little things.  That the big things are what matter…the memories we create, the unwavering support through life’s trials, the understanding that sisters are the ties that bind…no matter the little things.  One summer, just as we were figuring this out, not long before we lost her, Mandy and I took a getaway trip to a casino.  No kids.  Just the two of us.  The first time we had ever done a sister trip, we had more fun than I ever imagined we could together.  It was as if we suddenly remembered what it was like to laugh together, like we were the only two in on a joke.  We hysterically giggled our way through getting lost, losing money on the slot machines, finding that the valet had left our sunroof open for the 2 rain-filled days we were there,  and a very wet ride home on squishy, puddled seats.  We even giggled at our girlish giggling.  I regret that this was the one and only time we ever got away as sisters and left all of life’s noise behind.  Now, there are only memories…memories that make me smile or laugh and, of course, memories in the end that hurt beyond words.  But the real pain lies in the fact that there could have been so many more good ones, given the time.  There were so many things she never got to do, to experience, to see.  I find that with every new experience I have, with every new place I travel, with every new life development…regret finds me…regret that she isn’t here to do it with me.  That she was cheated of so much that life has to offer.  It’s in these moments that the familiar grief washes over me once again.  The loss.  Her loss of watching her children grow, of having grandchildren, of seeing the world, of everything we take for granted.  Her children’s unimaginable loss of having a mother to turn to, to rely on, to love.  My loss of a sister, of a friend, of opportunity to build on a foundation we were just learning we had.  So much loss.

Five years out, the loss is still so tangible.  Today that loss lies in the inability to wish my baby sister a happy birthday on a day we celebrated for so many years.  Her day.  This grief is a roller coaster of memories, tears, and regret.  Regret that instead of birthdays, all I have of her are yesterdays.  But after some thought, I have realized that throughout our life, I never shied away from giving her my two cents, often times two cents more than she wanted.  It may sound silly…it may be silly… but one thing that can live on is my two cents.  The one thing I have left of our sisterhood is that behind closed doors, whenever the mood strikes, I can still talk to her.  She may not answer me with words, but her memory lingers.  Memories of her answer me when she cannot.  So, with that, I’d like to wish her a happy birthday. What I would give to celebrate it with her today.  What I would give to have, with her, birthdays…instead of just yesterdays.

 

“The root of hate is usually ignorance with a side of fear.  We fear that which is unknown to us and that which is different from us.”  ~ from a previous 2010 article

Over the course of this presidential campaign, I have watched a narcissistic man with no political experience, no accountability, no respect for humanity, and no desire to unify a nation push and bully his way into a position usually reserved for a leader who embodies the exact opposite.  This man, ethically and morally bankrupt, has managed to ignite hate and bigotry that has long been forced into hiding.  By tapping into that fearful deep-seated hatred, he has managed to divide the country both on a large scale…and on a smaller scale…dividing friends, families, races, and cultures in a manner so toxic, so charged, that I worry about our ability to rebound.

I was confident there was no possible way this country would elect a man to lead us who admitted to avoiding paying taxes for his entire adult life to the very government he now wanted to represent, who bragged about sexually groping women simply because he “could,” a man who is a known playboy with his hand in the cookie jar every chance he gets, a man who (while running for president) had the audacity and ignorance to propose and encourage violence to get his way, a man who repeatedly sounded like a tantrum throwing 5 year old nearly every time we saw him debate.  I just never imagined that someone like Trump would ever stand the remote chance of obtaining a respected role like the presidency…I had more confidence in my country than that.  Especially with his contender being Hillary Clinton.  While not perfect, she had long standing political experience, she had devoted her life to standing up for women, and she could complete a fucking educated thought with responsible, thought out responses…whereas Trump jumped from one fourth grade word to the next, from one self pat on the back to another, from one half-brained thought to yet another self pat on the back, from one easily triggered childish backlash to the effortless throwing around of bombing threats.  The man left me utterly speechless during his debates.  I was sure that he was far too off base to ever actually win.  So I laughed it off.

Like so many others, I thought Hillary had this one in the bag.  And like so many others, the result of this election has left me feeling like I’ve been gutted, like the country that I took pride in…had faith in…had somehow been hijacked by hate.  When election night began, I had an ominous feeling.  But I convinced myself that we had nothing to worry about.  That the polls and political predictions were dead on and knew far more than I.  However, as election night marched on, I felt that dread grow.  It was a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Each time another state was given to Trump, I felt another sliver of hope vanish.  And the dread in my gut ballooned.  Once I finally realized it was over and he had won, I cried.  Hard.  I cried for my country.  I cried for its people.  I cried for what felt like the sudden death of growth and progress that had been fought for over so many years and tears.  I cried for children who were watching a bully be granted the biggest prize of all.  I cried for aspiring girls, for ambitious women, for all the “fat, ugly pigs” and “nasty women” out there whom he’d made to feel worthless.  I cried for the uncertainty of our planet if led by a man who dismissed science and global warming as a hoax.  I cried for the looming instability of peace when left in the hands of someone so egotistically and irrationally trigger happy and unwilling to listen to advisors on world issues.

But mostly, I just cried.  Because it felt as if the racist hate of the world had come out of hiding and raped America of its love and unity in an unexpected, and unprecedented night raid.  But I wasn’t alone…far from it.

It’s now being said that Trump’s campaign was just that…a campaign…nothing more.  That he chose a target audience and played right into what they wanted to hear.  I know this, to an extent.  But I also know that my gut feelings on character are rarely wrong and that if people show you who they are, it’s usually because that’s who they are.  After all, how often do people put great effort into faking despicable characteristics, while hiding their best traits?  It’s always the other way around.  I also know that human beings, when facing uncertainty and shock, will grasp for some sort of rationale, some kind of self-soothing peace of mind to convince themselves that all will be ok.  It’s basic self preservation to do so.

I truly hope that his campaign does not foretell his presidency.  I hope, for the sake of our country, that this hate that has been unleashed will be somehow rectified…that the division upon which his entire campaign was based was merely a con man’s tool to be elected…that there is some aspect of hope in him that I have missed.

Regardless of how he got here, or how we feel about it, or what his campaign tactics were…this is where we are…treading dangerous waters.  He will be our president for the next four years.  It’s our responsibility to put our differences aside, to make every effort to come together, unify the nation, and just be grown ups.  We must be our own life raft.

If we are to resist the division that has so quickly and easily reemerged, we must do so either with Trump, or despite him.  Either way, our children are watching.  They are watching our every move and counting on us for their future security.

Despite all of the ways we are different as people, we all share the most basic quality…biology.  We are one species…let us not use hate to self destruct. Let us rely on love, compassion, and unity to light the way.  It’s the path of least resistance to survival.

“Humanity is our one common thread.   We differ in every other way imaginable: culture, race, religion, opinion, sexual preference, personality…and so on and so on.   We are infinitely different…but ALL human.   Isn’t that enough common ground?  Must we force uniformity and resist individuality?  What a boring existence that would be.” ~ from 2010

 

~ Chick Hughes

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” ~ Roger Ebert

7 Behaviors most people think are negative that are actually healthy

~ Lifehack

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“Its risky,” said experience.

“Its pointless,” said reason.

 “Give it a try,” whispered the heart.

(author unknown)

 

 

This is my favorite of the many exquisitely poetic quotes scattered throughout Château de Gudanes, a website following the restoration of a 1700’s French chateau.  A huge undertaking fueled by pure passion for restoring what was once, and what will again be, a French gem.  As I scroll through the images and the thoughts of those charting the progress, I am lost in the beauty of not only the property, the landscape, and the architecture…but also in the romance and charm with which the story is documented.  As I watch the transformation of this centuries old architectural masterpiece, as I live vicariously through the images and anticipate the treasures unfolded inside , as I long to aimlessly wander the french countryside…I look forward to getting lost in love with each and every virtual visit to Château de Gudanes.

Chick Hughes

~ Sign of truly talented writer:  Successfully writing about not writing ~

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