My 2021 Word of the Year

Okay, the first week of January is already over and people have come to say it’s weird to wish each other a happy new year even if this is their first time meeting in 2021. It may be a bit late for me to pick a word for the new year. Then again, it’s one of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week. Besides, last year I didn’t choose my word for the year until January 10. I had the flu to excuse it with then, but oh well.

Last year I picked “Wellbeing” as my word for the year. I was somehow convinced it’d be a bad omen though. It wasn’t, in the sense that I didn’t end up in a major health crisis in 2020. Then again, the world at large did.

This year, I’ve had a word in mind for several weeks now and yet I keep making up my mind about it. I want to deepen my faith this year, so shouldn’t something like “faith” be my word of the year. That’d be too easy though. Rather, I based my word for 2021 on Bobby Schuller’s book. It is: BELOVED.

I want to focus this year on the creed of the beloved as Schuller outlines it in his book You Are Beloved. It is:
I am not what I do.
I am not what I have.
I am not what others say about me.
I do not need to worry.
I do not need to hurry.
I can trust my friend Jesus.

I also want to focus this year on my relationship with God and with others. After all, “beloved” does not just apply to me, but to my husband and others around me too. The fact that I am a beloved child of God, also, implies that I need to accept God as my Heavenly Father.

Now of course my thoughts are going back to the idea that this word of the year would be tempting fate. I fear that, now that I chose “Beloved”, it will mean I’ll lose my husband or other important people in my life this year. Even if this happens, though, I can show my love for them. I can start to express love right now, after all.

What is your word for 2021?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Moving Beyond Shame

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. I feel shame over a lot of things. Then again, my husband said that shame is only useful for the one second you realize you should’ve done different. Then you need to move on.

I just read a part of Bobby Schuller’s book You Are Beloved in which he tells me that God’s love is the antidote to shame. Jesus, he says, did not act out of shame. Maybe he didn’t even feel it. He didn’t care about his reputation, inviting the lowest-status people of his time to eat with him. Schuller notes that eating with someone in Jesus’ time on Earth means seeing them as equals.

Jesus regarded people who didn’t believe they belonged, as equals. Of course, he is God, so we can never measure up to that, but we can rest assured that he loves us no matter what.

God, help me move beyond the feeling of shame towards an experience of peace. I know You love me for who I am. Please help me see this with all my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This post was written for Five Minute Friday, for which the prompt this week is “Beyond”. I didn’t set a timer, but I think I did a pretty good job of doing this piece in five minutes.

Grateful for Love

Today’s Five Minute Friday (FMF) prompt is “Grateful”. It truly speaks to me, even though I, being from the Netherlands, don’t celebrate Thanksgiving this week. In fact, all I do for it is look all over the Internet to see whether the Apple Watch I want is on sale for Black Friday (it isn’t).

That being said, I haven’t felt more grateful than I feel now in a long while. Here’s why…

I feel so immensely grateful for my husband. He loves me and cares enough about me to show me his love multiple times daily even though we don’t live together. He must miss me, but rather than turn around and find someone else to live with, he tells me he loves me too many times to count. In fact, when COVID hit here first, we weren’t allowed to see each other for three months and yet he still loved me.

Last week, I wrote about grieving the loss of my “normal”, functioning self. Today, I am so immensely grateful to be loved for who I am. Not just by my husband, but by God as well.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

I have been meditating a lot on this Bible passage and somehow come across it almost on a daily basis when reading about Christianity. It was the start of the Bible reading for the First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, LA sermon I referred to on Tuesday. More than commanding me to be Godlike, it speaks to me in that my old self doesn’t matter. I am loved by God just the way I am.

Okay, this took me longer to write than five minutes, but then again it usually does. Sorry about that. In fact, I took probably about five minutes to find, read and copy/paste the Bible passage. Well, at least I tried to keep it short.

Faith Is a Verb

Last Saturday, my husband told me about a book he had been reading. He said: “It’s a Christian book.” As a progressive believer who struggles with her faith a lot, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a Christian book. Two weeks earlier, he had recommended Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis to me and I hadn’t picked it up yet. After all, some of the passages he read to me had me angry.

My husband though explained to me that the book he was recommending now was perfectly suited to my recent struggles. You see, I have been struggling with feelings of worthlessness due to my not living the life my parents had envisioned for me.

The book is called You Are Beloved by Bobby Schuller. My husband was so convinced it’d help me, that he offered to buy me the eBook on whichever platform suited me best. I said I’d look whether it’s available on Bookshare, an accessible book service for the print disabled, first. And it was. I downloaded it as soon as I had access to stable WiFi.

I looked up Bobby Schuller first before starting to read the book. My husband isn’t very conservative either, but still more conservative than me. I wasn’t sure I’d like what Schuller had to say.

I so far only read the introduction, but was immediately enthusiastic. Not just for Schuller’s book, but for my faith in general.

I don’t have a church I belong to normally even without COVID. In fact, I usually listen to American church services despite living in the Netherlands. I hadn’t listened to them in a while though and the ones I usually listen to are so progressive they’re hardly Christian at all. On Sunday, I decided to listen to the prior week’s sermon (since the current week’s wasn’t available yet due to time zone differences) from First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA.

In it, the pastor discusses Ephesians 4:22-5:2, in which Paul tells believers how to be Godlike. The pastor also quotes an original Methodist work that explains the character of true believers. It said, among other things, that we are happy – always happy. The pastor uses this to tell the believers that the goal of the Christian life is not just to go to Heaven after we die, but to be Christlike in the current life too. This very much resonated with what my husband said to me when recommending Schuller’s book: that faith is a verb.

My husband meant to say that, if we truly believe that God loves us, we will also extend this to others and live an ethical life. He also said that the goal of every religion, not just Christianity, is to find true peace of mind. In other words, the goal is not just to sit on a cloud and play the harp after we die (in case that’s how you picture Heaven), but to experience the kingdom of God here on Earth.

Schuller’s main point, by the way, is that we are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not how others see us. We are beloved by God just because we are.

”Grace

The One I Love: My Husband #Blogtober20

Welcome to day two in #Blogtober20. I realize that when I wrote about myself yesterday, I never mentioned the fact that I’m married. Thankfully, the second prompt in the series is “The One I Love”, so now is my opportunity to talk all about my husband, Jeroen. I usually don’t refer to him by his name, but right now it’d be confusing to refer to him as my boyfriend, now husband or whatever constantly.

I met Jeroen on an Internet forum in 2007. Neither of us were looking for a relationship. I wrote on the forum that I was bored and lonely living on my own in student accommodation in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands. He went to school in Nijmegen at the time. He was also looking to expand his social circle, so he PM’d me asking if we could drink a cup of coffee or tea in Nijmegen somewhere. We met at the bus stop near the university’s dentistry department, because that was the only bus stop near the uni that my bus would stop by. We went for a coffee or tea at the uni’s cafe. I was so nervous that I tumbled off a step and dropped my coffee.

Thankfully though, Jeroen didn’t mind. Though he had been nervous too and had mixed feelings about our first time meeting, he did want to meet again. I invited him to my student apartment, just because I had no clue where else to meet. That could’ve been really stupid, but thankfully it turned out well.

Six weeks after first meeting Jeroen, I was hospitalized onto the psychiatric ward, which didn’t have an Internet connection for patients. I didn’t have Jeroen’s phone number, so asked my staff to log onto the forum and send him a message. The staff didn’t include my phone number, because I hadn’t requested it.

Several weeks later, my father called to ask whether he could give my number to Jeroen. It turned out that Jeroen had found my father’s E-mail address by googling the whois info for his website. I am so grateful my father didn’t have privacy protection on, as I do with my websites.

It certainly wasn’t love at first sight (oh, that sounds stupid for a blind person) for me. On the contrary, when Jeroen told me he was in love with me, I let him wait four months before reciprocating it. Similarly, when he proposed to me in June of 2010, I replied: “So do you think that’d be cool then?” He did really want to marry me and we had our wedding date on September 19, 2011, exactly four years after we’d first met.

Jeroen and I don’t live together. Like I said, he fell in love with me while I was hospitalized. This hospitalization lasted 9 1/2 years, after which I was kicked out to live with Jeroen. I really struggled to cope living semi-independently, so eventually applied for long-term care funding.

Jeroen is 31-years-old (32 next month). He sometimes jokes about my having married a younger man, as I am 34. I am glad he isn’t significantly younger than me though, as, when I was hospitalized on the locked unit, I wasn’t to leave the ward unless with someone 18 or over. We loved going to the hospital cafeteria to have tea or hot cocoa. We also loved playing cards.

Jeroen and I have the same sense of humor. We love wordplay and have our own phrases and terms for communicating certain things. For example, when we get bored of each other, we say “banana spider”. He is also really inventive with new nicknames for me. I, not so much.

I really love Jeroen and want to be married for the rest of our life. Not living together has its ups and downs. Particularly in these times of corona, we’ve had to be separated more than we’d like to. Thankfully, our love has survived.

#Blogtober20

Pandemic Positives

Today, Fandango asks in his weekly provocative question wehther the need to quarantine as a result of COVID-19 has made you a better person.

Lockdown here started in the middle of March with restaurants acutely closing their doors, school closures and, a week later, a no-visitors policy in nursing homes and care facilities. I couldn’t see my husband for nearly three months. Then we could see each other, but we had to keep our distance as much as possible.

Life more or less returned to some sembleance of normal at the end of June. Still, people are scared. I, not so much, though I do take COVID-19 seriously. There are still certain restrictions, most of which don’t affect me too much.

The main thing affecting me was not being able to see my husband. This certainly made me appreciate our very special relationship even more than I appreciated it already. I mean, I chose to go into long-term care last year, of course not knowing that this would mean not seeing my husband for a few months. However, I doubt most marriages would survive even that decision, let alone the consequences. I attribute the success of our marriage mostly to my husband’s everlasting love, but I do deserve some credit for it too.

In general, too, the pandemic has made me more appreciative of what I do have. I am physically healthy and so are my loved ones. In April, a man at the home below me died of coronavirus. Though he was in his 70s, this shocked me a little. My father is in his 70s too, so I’m all the more grateful to still have him.

Other than gratitude, I think the pandemic taught me some level of creativity. Before the lockdown, I found it hard to connect to my husband when I didn’t see him. Now we call each other multiple times a week and text multiple times a day. Of course, I could’ve done that before too, but out of need grew the solution.

I also read somewhere that some people are particularly happier now than they were before the pandemic. I have to say so am I. The reasons may not be related to the pandemic at all, as I’ve also finally settled into the care facility and such.

In general though, I think the pandemic has had and continues to have negative effects on the world, of course. However, if it affected me personally at all, it’s positively. By this I don’t mean my economic, social or health status, of course. Though I’m still financially secure and healthy, no-one knows whether this will remain this way given the huge economic costs of the pandemic. I’ve just become a more positive (or should I say less negative?) person.

Choosing Love #SoCS

Choosing love is important. Choosing that one person you would want to be with. Or choosing more than one if that’s your thing. Many lovers value their partner above themself. I’m not sure I do and that often makes me feel bad about myself.

I mean, I always say that Jeroen is the most cherished, best, loveliest person in the world. Then he replies that it’s me. Sometimes we go on to joke that it’s our cat Barry.

Yet, whenever I say I love Jeroen more than myself, I think: “So why did I choose to go into the care facility?”

I was fully expecting my husband to say the same when he visited me for the first time in over two months, since visiting had been prohibited until now due to coronavirus lockdown. I fully expected him to come and tell me he didn’t want to be my husband anymore. And yet he didn’t! I’m so happy that, even though I chose my own happiness over his, he chose love!

Written for this week’s Stream of Consciousness or #SoCS, for which the prompt today is “ch”. Also writing this using the new block editor.

💞 Happy Eighth Wedding Anniversary to My Husband and Me 💞

Today is September 19. Eight years ago today, my husband and I said our wedding vows. Twelve years ago today we first met at the bus stop nearest to the university that I could get to without transferring. That first meeting was awkward. I didn’t have good mobility skills, but of course it wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to use this boy I barely knew online as a sighted guide. As a result, I fell off a few steps and dropped my coffee.

My now husband said later that, after this first meeting, he wasn’t sure whether to ask to meet me again, but intuition told him that if he did, a lot more would follow. And it did.

Today, my husband had to work a long day as a truck driver. He originally had this week off, but changed that so that he could help me move to the care facility on Monday and make the move to our new house. He told me in advance not to be mad if he’d not be home by seven. As it turned out, he was home a little before eight. He also got tomorrow off unexpectedly, so our not being able to celebrate our wedding anniversary today is more than made up for soon.

Someone said in a comment on my previous post that my husband is lucky to have me, because at least I consider choosing him above self-care. I must say, I don’t see it that way, but I definitely feel I am lucky to have my husband. I mean, how many people would walk out on their significant others the day they were in a mental crisis? That’s not a fluffy, socially acceptable thing to do, but it’s reality. My staff at the psychiatric hospital had never seen a patient getting married while on their ward before.

The fact that my husband supports me through my decision to go into long-term care, also proves that I”m lucky to have him.

These eight years married and these twelve years knowing each other, have been very different from the traditional couple’s first so many years, but they’ve definitely been worth it at least for me. Without my husband, I don’t know that I’d even still be alive today. Here’s hoping for a lot more years of a happy marriage.

Freewrite on My Transition Into Long-Term Care

Yikes, in less then a week, I’ll be in the care facility in Raalte. It’s exciting, but of course it is also scary. I have been planning on writing more about the transition. In fact, I have Mari L. McCarthy’s 22-day transitions journaling course. I had it already before I moved in with my husband, but never quite used it then. I’m not sure I’ll use every prompt this time either. The day 1 prompt is to freewrite on your hopes and fears and such re the transition. Here goes.

I’m really excited to go into long-term care. I’ve been looking forward to it for almost a year. However, now that it comes close, I’m second guessing myself.

I mean, am I not happy with the situation as it is now? The honest answer is “No”, but does that relate to the situation or to me? As a fellow patient on the locked ward once said, you take you everywhere. As such, I need to be really clear that I’m not just depressed because I suffer with a mental illness. I need to separate what is my depression that just is from what is my unhappiness with living semi-independently.

Besides, am I truly unhappy? My husband said this time in my life was perhaps the happiest for me, judging by his observation, since he first met me in 2007. Then I must counter it’s perhaps the least unhappy time period in my life.

I really hope I’ll be able to have a happier life living in long-term care. I know I often feel very depressed when alone and that’s not a time my husband sees me. The times I have no-one to rely on, will most likely lessen a lot, but having my own room means I’ll still be able to have alone time.

I fear, however, that I’ll be understimulated in long-term care. One of the things the behavior specialist from the blindness agency wrote in her report on me from observing me at day activities, is that the activities are not challenging. I do simple puzzles, construction play and such. If that’s all I’ll be required to do at my new day activities, I’m sure I’ll get bored. Part of me says that we’ll find a way to deal with this and that I need to be content to get the care I need. Another part says that I shouldn’t stop desiring stimulating activities just because I am in long-term care.

I also fear that going into long-term care will be a slippery slope. My father’s voice is in my mind, saying I manipulate the world into giving me care. If he is right, going into long-term care will just make me lose skills, become more dependent and ultimately need a lot of one-on-one support. It may lead to backlash from the care facility, causing me to get kicked out again.

I will, of course, also be missing my husband. I can deal with it, but it’s sad. I’m scared that he’ll grow tired of visiting me every week because of the long drive (nearly 90 minutes one way). I don’t want to lose my husband. I said, when originally falling apart in 2018, that I would choose him over long-term care if I had to. I don’t really need to choose, as we’ll still be seeing each other, but what if I do? Will it be too late to choose him? I hope not.

Confessions of a New Mummy

Four #SoCS

My husband and I like the number four. The reason is that the Dutch word for four, “vier”, is also the Dutch word for “celebrate”. One day when my then boyfriend and I were walking in a forest near his home, we went up a hill and he proposed we celebrate getting on top of the hill with a kiss. A little later, we saw the number four written on the path or something and he said four means to celebrate with a kiss. This is how we ended up making up the word “fouring” for kissing.

We played a lot of card games back then. This was in 2008, when I was still inpatient on the locked psych ward. We didn’t really know what else to do. So everytime a four came up in our card games, one of us would say that meant we had to kiss.

We got married on the day we knew each other four years exactly. Actually, the wedding ceremony was at 3PM. That had been the time of our first date too. It wasn’t because we selected the time, but it was quite cool anyway.

I like to remind myself of these beautiful moments. My husband gave me this little bride and groom that had been on top of our wedding cake. He dug it up from the attic the day after we had a little argument last week about me thinking I might go into supported housing nearly two hours from him. I liked the reminder. I love my husband! I don’t want to ever leave him. I don’t want to live too far from him. My marriage trumps my need for good care.

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday.