Mental Dis-Ease

Mental Health Story #2 (for Mental Health Awareness Month):

So, a few years after I went through that massive life-changing depression, I had the opportunity to experience another bout of mental dis-ease. (My doctor diagnosed “severe anxiety.”) I think the first experience helped prepare me for the second experience, actually. I went into this one equipped with some tools.

This time the experience wasn’t from inside me – this one was caused by external stress that, I thought, I had no control over and that, I thought, I was powerless to change. I felt trapped and couldn’t see any way to make things better for myself.

Unlike my first experience with mental illnes, this time I did see a professional for help. When I called my health insurance hotline to get help, the woman on the other end of the line asked me a series of questions. One of the last questions she asked me was also one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer in my life: “Have you contemplated suicide in the last week?” I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I told her I had. She asked me if I’d contemplated a method. I told her I had.

She asked me why I hadn’t gone through with it, and I told her I hadn’t gone through with it because “I am a chicken shit, and I thought it might hurt.” She started laughing then – which is the best thing she could have done for me – and told me I’d given her a really healthy answer.

The woman on the other end of the phone found a counselor for me, but when I called the counselor’s office I learned this woman was a psychologist – and I told her office that I didn’t really need a psychologist – my problem wasn’t that serious – I just needed a counselor. The receptionist said she’d have the psychologist call me back. When the psychologist called me back, she assured me that she was, basically, just a counselor with a doctor’s degree and encouraged me to come in and see her. So I did.

My first session with her I just sat there and blubbered. My second session with her I blubbered some more and told her all the things I was expected to change in my current teaching position – things I had no control over – and I didn’t see how I could change “and…and…”

The psychologist asked me, “Do you plan to go back to that positiion?” I told her I didn’t see how I could. And then she asked me a question that completely changed the course of my life: “Then why do you need to fix these things?”

Whoah. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders in that moment. I saw that these things weren’t my problem anymore. I didn’t need to worry about them!

From that moment on our sessions together became all about creating a new life for myself. She helped me recognize the things in my life that were making me, literally, crazy, and that I needed to throw out; and she helped me recognize the things I needed to bring more into my life – creative things, artsy things, Soul-things. She helped me see there WERE options and I wasn’t trapped.

I ended up being led to apply for a new teaching position – working with students who were dealing with challenges and obstacles in their young lives that most of us have never had to experience. I found a healthy purpose in my professional life again, and a renewed love for teaching.

From this experience, I learned that we’re never trapped, and there’s always an answer – even if we can’t see it right away. As my wonderful friend, Laura Lavigne, says: “There are things we know we know. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are a whole lot of things we don’t know we don’t know – and THAT is where the magic is!”

This experience happened more than a decade ago. I’m retired now. I’m so glad I was able to retire from my career feeling good about teaching, and about myself. I got to give the keynote speech and sing a song at the graduation that year, and celebrate the beauty of education. And all of that happened because I found the courage to make that phone call, and find help for myself. Talking with a professional helped me unlock the mental bars and see the possibilities for my life.

“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Lake Padden Forest (Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Love Is Still Here

Love Is Still Here

The fourth Thanksgiving
without Moz at our table,
the first without Dad and
the first without a turkey –
we went vegan this year.
We forged ahead, making
it up as we went – creating
new traditions: a yellow
and red pepper dish; a bowl
of mushrooms sauteed
in olive oil – which we used
as our gravy on the mashed
potatoes; Broccoli steamed
to a brilliant green; and orange
squash made for a colorful plate.
I was yearning for something
old to bring to the feast –
something from the past –
and remembered Aunt Junie’s
dishes with the blue flowers
around the outside. Scott
reached up and pulled them
from the top shelf for me
and put them on the table.
Much looks different this year.
But this hasn’t changed:
Love is still here.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Beyond the Year of Insanity

A couple of days ago I wrote a post that began thusly: “13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now. I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today…”

The Year of Insanity was life-changing for me. After it was over I found I had to start over and build from scratch big parts of my life – my career, my approach to life, my relationships with friends – because my old way of doing things wasn’t going to work for me anymore. I think this is going to be true for our world, too, once it makes it through its own Year of Insanity.

A few years after The Year of Insanity I found myself in a transition between one job and the next – The Year of Insanity had helped me realize that my mental health was more important than any amount of money and that I could no longer continue in a position that didn’t feel “right” to me. The transition into a new career was a scary, exhilarating, audacious, crazy wonderful time for me – rich with possibilities. I was unfettered and open to whatever new opportunities came my way – ready to create a whole ‘nother career for myself. For the first time I went to a counselor – and she helped me discover for myself what it was I needed to do to bring sanity to my life – what I needed to discard, and what I needed to nurture. Creativity moved up to the front of my life – photography and writing and music. The insane stuff – nonsensical edicts (stuff like that scene from “Office Space” involving “the memo” – you know the one), schedules and bureaucracy, fear and anxiety – got tossed.

And, once I opened my thought to all the infinite possibilities, cool things started happening: I was offered a small salary to work as my church’s Reading Room librarian; I got a contract to proofread and write for an educational publishing company; I made note cards of my photos and started selling them at a little coffee shop; my book, *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist*, was bringing in a small amount in royalties every month. I wasn’t making a LOT of income at first – it was more a symbolic income, really – but it was enough to give me hope that there was something waiting for me beyond the career I’d left behind. And soon I was offered another job, teaching at an alternative high school, that brought my life purpose and great joy for the next seven years – until I retired a year ago last June.

Love, God, has always been with me – through the good stuff and the “bad” – leading and guiding me, and opening up new doors ahead of me, as other doors have closed behind me. I’ve come to recognize that Love will always provide for me and mine, and that I never need to fear what the future holds; It holds nothing but good – because even the “bad” is transformed into something good when we put Love at the helm.

You know that old adage – “Quitters never win and winners never quit”? Well, I have found that sometimes the bravest and best thing we can do for ourselves – and the world – is to quit the course we’re on when it’s not the right one for us, and start something entirely new.

“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
– Matthew 9

“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Pinnacle Peak in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo from the Plummer Peak trail. (Karen Molenaar Terrell)

A Message from the New Owners

Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.
– Mary Bakery Eddy

Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.
– Mary Baker Eddy

My parents had lived in this house, and on this land, for 48 years. They’d planted and nurtured trees, kept the local birds supplied with a steady stream of bird feed, Dad had painted a mural on the garage, and Mom had planted a rose garden. Now it was time for Dad (97 then) and Moz (87 then) to transition into a new chapter in their lives. It was time for them to leave the old homestead and leave it in the hands of new owners.

When my husband, brothers, and I looked at what needed to be accomplished in the next few months it was over-whelming. Daunting. It looked to be impossible.

There was 48 years of accumulated life to sort through – mountains of books, artwork, correspondence, journals, music, photos, mountaineering paraphernalia. As a well-known mountain-climber my dad has led an extraordinarily rich life, hobnobbed with celebrities, traveled around the world – we couldn’t just throw stuff in the dumpster willy-nilly – there might be a letter from Bobby Kennedy or Edmund Hillary hidden in the flotsam and jetsam, or a National Geographic with Dad’s picture in it. And there was so much! Three stories filled with memories.

Also – a new home needed to be found for our parents, and their old home needed to be sold. We worried: Would we be able to sell the parents’ old home in time to pay for their new home? And would we find new owners who would appreciate the homestead, and care for it, and love it the way my parents had?

I threw out our hopes and needs to God, Love, and trusted that the power of Good in which I believe would direct us and open the way. Nothing, I told myself, is impossible to Love. Nothing is beyond the reach of Love. Love would provide.

I invited two of Dad’s friends to come over and sort through books and artwork for us – to help us know what was important and needed to be kept safe and what could be donated to the Goodwill. Then my siblings and I each pledged to tackle a different floor in the house – my husband and I took the main floor, my brothers took on the attic and basement.

My husband and I gave ourselves one day to empty the first floor, and dust, sweep, vacuum, and mop it. We got there at 8:00 in the morning. About 2:00 I was exhausted and ready to give up. My husband said, matter-of-factly, “We can’t. We don’t have a choice. We’ve got to get it done.” And then he picked up a mop and disappeared. He was a huge inspiration to me that day. I couldn’t have done what I needed to do without his calm, steady, can-do attitude. At 7:00 pm – 11 hours after we’d started – we were done. It felt like I’d just summited Mount Rainier – I had that same feeling of happy accomplishment.

My mom had given me the name and number of a real estate agent, and when I called, she agreed to take us on. We couldn’t have found a more perfect person to work with us! She was kind and patient – never pushed my parents to do what they weren’t ready to do and always put their needs and wishes first.

Two weeks after putting my parents’ home on the market, it had new owners. I teared up when I read the note they sent to Mom and Dad:

Dear Dee and Colleen,

We just want to thank you both so much for choosing us to inherit this property. We fell in love with it right away. It’s our dream house. We promise to respect it and keep the spirit of love alive here. We appreciate the spirit of adventure and have the utmost respect for the incredible things you’ve done. What a beautiful life!

Dee, your art is gorgeous. We will forever treasure the mural on the garage. Colleen, we will continue to nurture the birds you’ve brought to the property. It was magical to see so many, and of such variety, during our short chat on the porch.

On a more practical note, PLEASE don’t worry about cleaning the place out. Anything you need to leave is fine. We will take care of it. It must be bittersweet to be moving on to a new chapter of life and we are in no way wanting you to feel pressured.

Of course, you are welcome any time. Thanks again. We’re pinching ourselves with the good luck of finding this home!

With love,

Chris and Janel

My parents’ old home was meant to belong Chris and Janel. They were meant to live there now. You know that old saying “What blesses one, blesses all”?  This is a perfect example of that.

My parents got full price for their old home and were able to move into a retirement community, and, more recently, closer to me – in an artsy, active little town where they can take walks along the water and visit art galleries, and get the services they need for this new chapter in their lives.

***

I recently called Janel to find out if I could use her letter in my new book, Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom. She cheerfully gave me permission, and then told me how much her young family is enjoying their new home. Oh man, that just warmed the cockles of my heart. Blessings all around.

Love is good.

Dad and his mural

Dee Molenaar and the mural on his old garage.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God (Love), to them who are the called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:28

“Home!”

Okay, this little moment brought me a lot of joy yesterday: Moz and Dad and I went to a meeting yesterday afternoon (Mom had asked me to come down and go to a meeting with their bankers with them). I could tell the meeting was a struggle for Dad – he can’t hear well and was having a hard time keeping up with what was going on. The meeting took about an hour and then the folks loaded back into my car and I drove them to their new apartment. As soon as Dad walked into his new apartment his whole face lit up and he made his way to his favorite seat on the couch. When he sat down he smiled, let out a deep sigh of satisfaction, and said, “Home!”

I am so proud of Mom and Dad. They’ve made so many huge changes in the last couple months – and they’ve approached each new change with courage and fortitude and done what they needed to do. I know it wasn’t easy for Dad to leave the old homestead – “I loved this place,” he said as he sat at the kitchen counter of the homestead one last time – and then he put on his faithful alpine hat, took one last look around, turned off the lights, and headed out the door to his new life. And now, seeing him happy in his new home – that just means the world to me.

I asked him if there was anything I could bring him to his new home. He said no. He didn’t want material things anymore. He pointed to the books lying around him and said that as long as he’s surrounded by his mountain books, he’s home.

And Moz! Ohmygosh! She has just been amazing. She’s had to make so many decisions and choices in the last few months – and she hasn’t shirked from a single one – she’s done what she needed to do for Dad and for herself, and done it with grace and humor and courage.

I am really proud to be their daughter.

“I need to paint again.”

Every good painter paints what he is. – Jackson Pollock

Dad turned 97 at the end of June, and he and Mom (87) moved into a new home in a retirement community the next week. I’ve been so proud of the way they’ve forged ahead into this new adventure.

Last weekend I helped them unpack and unbox things in their new apartment – hung up pictures on the wall, cleared off the desk so Mom has a place to get organized, and cleared off the dining room table for Dad – showed him the box I’d packed for him full of watercolor paints, brushes, pencils. He said, “I need to paint again.” And then he filled up a cup with water, picked the brush he wanted, and THIS happened… 🙂

 

(3rd Book) Introduction to The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New

(Introduction to The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New)

Vonnegut, Stevenson, and Adams Talking in My Head –

In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness. And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely. “Everything must have a purpose?” asked God. “Certainly,” said man. “Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God. – Kurt Vonnegut

But our early man has a moment to reflect and he thinks to himself, “Well, this is an interesting world that I find myself in,” and then he asks himself a very treacherous question, a question that is totally meaningless and fallacious, but only comes about because of the nature of the sort of person he is, the sort of person he has evolved into, and the sort of person who has thrived because he thinks this particular way. Man the maker looks at his world and says, “So who made this, then?” Who made this? – you can see why it’s a treacherous question. Early man thinks , “Well, because there’s only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me, and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he’s probably male.” And so we have the idea of a God. Then, because when we make things, we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself, “If he made it, what did he make it for?” – Douglas Adams

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love… God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. I John 4

This year I’ve had the great good privilege of holding conversations with authors Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series), Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse Five and other equally amazing novels), and D.E. Stevenson (author of the Miss Buncle books). Okay, so I didn’t, like, actually talk to any of them in the person – seeing as how they’re all dead and everything, but I did have the great joy of reading their books for the first time this year, and sort of… well… talking to them in my head.

We all laughed together at the nonsense of life and humankind and ourselves, we chatted about God, and I found kinship with them in our similar views of “Life, the Universe, and Everything” (another of Adams’s books).

Adams and Vonnegut were atheists (I didn’t find any place in her writings where Stevenson actually voices her thoughts regarding a belief in God) and, although I do believe in God, I, too, am an atheist when it comes to an anthropomorphic god who lives in the clouds and zaps his children to hell periodically. I am of the opinion that THAT kind of a god should have long ago gone the way of Zeus and Mars and ridden off into the sunset on his fiery chariot never to be seen again except in the study of ancient cultures and literature.

I wish I would have found Adams, Vonnegut, and Stevenson earlier in my life. I can’t believe it took me so long. I’m sad that I didn’t get to know Adams – who was only five years older than me – when he was walking the earth. I’m sad that his sudden death at the age of 49 didn’t have the significance to me that it would have, had I known him then. I wish I would have understood , then , what his early departure meant to the world . And when I read his last book, The Salmon of Doubt – compiled in the year after his death by his friends and editors – I found myself sobbing when I got to the end of it – knowing there wouldn’t be any more. I felt like I had lost a good friend.

Kurt Vonnegut introduced his readers to the fictitious but way cool religion of Bokononism in his book, Cat’s Cradle, and I will be making periodic references to Bokononism in my book.

And D.E. Stevenson introduced me to the wonderfully enlightened and wise Miss Buncle, who’s brought me laughter and the comforting feeling that I am not alone as I pretend to be a grown-up.

I’m going to bring my new friends into this book with me. They are a part of my life now, and they need to be a part of this book, too.

http://www.amazon.com/Madcap-Christian-Scientist-All-Things/dp/1499746164/ref=asap_B0044P90RQ_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415835816&sr=1-2

Every Day New

Think about it – for children every day is new, every day is full of something they haven’t seen or experienced before. And the way little children approach these new things is really inspiring, isn’t it? Children look at their world with wide-eyed wonder, eager to learn new things, fearless and unself-conscious with the newness of their lives – without making a conscious choice about it, they learn to walk and talk and run. And without conscious thought or choice they leave the ”old” behind in a very natural and unforced way – one day, without thinking about it, they put down their favorite toy for the last time, and move on to something new.

Drew and Xander on slide

Sharing a Child with the World…

 Sharing a child with the world is the absolute in love — he will be in contact with more love than he has ever had in his life. And will of course share it all with you. It’s time to sharpen your intuition and other heartfelt communications skills. If you stay in tune with him, you’ll see how easy it will be to have him experiencing the whole globe and still be connected to your heartstrings. Try to stop mourning something that you did not lose. This “graduation” into adulthood will pay back endless dividends to you and to him. So — I know that I am sounding like a big smartypants….but it is true, I AM a big smartypants! Congratulations on this essential step in parenting. Don’t worry, you have job security. Forever.                      – Linda Sola

***

My oldest son left home yesterday to return for his final year at the university. This time felt different, to me, than the three times he’s returned to school before. This time it felt so… well… final. At the end of this school year he graduates, launches off into his “own life”, and maybe returns to us once a year at Christmas.

As the son was getting himself packed up and ready to go, I was trying to figure out what I could give him to send him on his trip. If I had a daughter leaving to go back to university maybe I’d give her a card, or some little sentimental trinket, or flowers… but the son is a very male male… still… I had a sudden memory of the son at about the age of three, sweetly offering me a fistful of yellow dandelions… he’d always liked flowers when he was little.

Was it my turn to give him a flower? How would a manly man feel about his mother handing him a rose?

Oh bother. I still wasn’t sure how to proceed, but my rose bushes needed pruning, anyway, so I decided I might as well start clipping off some of the buds – and if, when the time came for the son to leave, it didn’t feel quite right to offer him roses, I’d just keep them and put them in a vase.

And then a cool thing happened: As I was bringing the rose buds inside, the son looked over and saw them. “Pretty flowers,” he observed.

And suddenly it was the most natural thing in the world to say,  “I’m going to give one to you to take on your trip,” He smiled and thanked me – kind and generous in the way of a man grown – accepting my little floral offering with the same look on his face that I’d probably had when he’d once offered me his little fistful of dandelions.

The husband and I smiled and waved as our son pulled out of the driveway and headed back to school. And then I made my way to the solace of my Secret Garden, and remembered…

Andrew and dandelion