Flying with Broken Wings is about the life of Charlotte Jean Murphree. Charlotte was not a famous person, in fact, not too many people knew her, but those that did knew there were many facets to her life. the book tells of fifty-two years of daily testing of her will to carry on and the misfortune she faced. As a baby and young girl, she was made fun of by schoolchildren, her progress was slow, but she never gave up the fight to overcome her disabilities. As an adult, she fought Cerebral Palsy, Living with Bipolar, Depression, and Schizophrenia disorders. Charlotte lived not only with herself, but she endured the “Voices” that lived within her for over thirty years. This book is about the beginning, middle, and end of her life.
Sharing with my followers a page from my daily diary…
A myeloma diagnosis can drastically affect the quality of one’s life. The disease gives me a feeling of isolation and being alone.
Myeloma has had a significant effect on the quality of my life, as well as my emotional well-being. I am managing it and have a close and meaningful relationship and conversations with my doctor. She has me on treatments that work and is slow in progression. She is my “rock.”
“Quality of life” is a broad term that describes a range of topics on exactly how myeloma affects the quality of my life or anyone’s life. Despite the impact of myeloma, I do everything humanly possible to make living with the condition more manageable.
About 99% of the time, I feel anxious and depressed, and stressed. I find it hard to exercise; mostly, it is slow walking, along with everyday chores in my apartment. I have no social life; it is difficult when you must ask someone else to drive you anywhere, including doctor and treatment appointments. I feel that most days, I am isolated and alone.
My circle of people has grown smaller over the past two years. I try not to let that stress me out, as stress is a killer too. On top of all the things that harm one who has MM is the unrelenting pain; it never goes away; it goes up and down in degrees. Like the medical team that works with me, always ask on a scale of 0 to 10 how your pain is. I always answer that it depends on what time of day it is and what I have done to aggravate my body. On a good day, my pain level is a 5; on a bad day, it is off the charts.
I know my doctor is trying to slow down the disease. I have great emotional support from most of my children and grandchildren; they have become why I continue to fight. The disease has also caused the family to pull away. I do not fault them; watching a loved one slowly die must be very difficult. My sons and grandchildren allow me to talk to them about my dying. Everyone should stop thinking that death is all I truly know to be certain in my life. Dying is like a divorce; no one wants to talk about it, hoping it will go away, that time will take care of it.
I write this to hope that if you have someone in your life that has or is dying from any disease or reason when these relatives ask, you say, “I am OK?” Well, that means that we are in control of the pain. It never goes away.
The dying individual does not want pity; they do not want anything but your love. They want ask for anything but listen if they talk to you. Take the time to remember that they were once active people who have been thrown into the pits of fiery hell because of their sickness.
It’s turning cool in Wisconsin; the mornings are damp, with the sun showing its face late in the afternoon. When the day grows dark, the moon looks like it is covered with ice, light in the distance where life does not exist. Then, the body finds comfort in the warmth of the day. Today I watched a TV program about homelessness; it’s crucial to remember that homeless people are our brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, parents, and children.
I do all that I can financially, buying bags of food sent to my hometown’s food bank. I advocate when possible, for the homeless. I am thankful that my children are adults and have decent jobs. I live in a Senior Housing complex with a food box in our lobby. Seniors here sometimes reach into the box, retrieving one or two items. I put things in this box as well. I wrote how I feel about this enormous problem worldwide.
Another post from the website of Chuck Murphree, published YA writer, Mental Health speaker, Edcuator.
It has started again, the feeling of a faster heart rate, the inability to catch a proper breath, the tension that comes from a tight jaw that causes pain in my neck, the squeezing of my lower back which seems to mimic a vice grip on my spine, and then the almighty psoas muscle, tightening against my will, causing a lingering pain in the quad muscles in both legs. I cannot help but sit back and sigh and then giggle toward my pain. After all, it is my mind that is the source of it all. It’s my thoughts and emotions coming out in the form of stress. Stress, oh how I wish it was a four-letter word in stead of five because it should sit beside that most infamous of curse words, F&%K!
I felt it coming on slowly. For those of you who feel the world, you know who you are, it started to pile on after the first few days of school. It’s when anxiety caught me off guard, giving me surges of adrenaline that seemed to be injected in large veins by a tiny needle, slowly releasing it all, and leaving me on the edge of panic. Not quite a full-blown panic attack, just a little nudge reminding me that it’s there, waiting to interrupt my life if I don’t find a way to calm down my stress. And yes, depression decided to join the party because what fun would it be if my little dark friend didn’t come to play?
I suppose I could blame it on the start of another school year. Perhaps it is me starting a new position in the world of education. Maybe “world” isn’t the right word these days. It’s more like a typhoon that makes landfall in August and continues until June. Yes, the typhoon of education. Why? I sit and wonder why we haven’t figured it out yet? We educators have a repeated cycle of stepping into the fire, suffocating on the smoke, year after year. We start off with our professional development and encouraging words from worn-out administrators, which is part of the repeated cycle, and then the dam breaks. We are then flooded. We rush and feel rushed. We are given a plethora of insurmountable tasks to do, maybe I should say unsustainable tasks, and it just keeps coming. And all of this has nothing to do with students or even parents. Yet, they are there. The most important purpose of all, our kids are there, waiting for us to engage them. They are there to tell us about their lives, emotions, and mental health. They are there to share their experiences from their sometimes chaotic home lives, and yet, when we give them our all, we are piled on with more. It makes me wonder what our true priority is? Is it meetings? Is it data? Is it paperwork? Is it politics? It often does not seem like it is students because we are worn out with everything else that is required.
Let’s go back to that word “blame” for a moment. I cannot have blame for anyone but myself for the stress that is unfolding. It is me who feels the world deeply, so while I am being flooded by all the training, meetings, paperwork, parent phone calls, and on and on, I am worried about my kids. They sit before me, some struggling daily with their own depression and anxiety. Some are struggling with their self-worth, and it is them that I keep as my priority. They are waiting for my ears and my heart. They are waiting for my words and my experience. They wait patiently for me to teach them but what they really want is the connection. And so I am to blame for my stress. I am to blame for my anxiety and allowing myself to be flooded because I care. I care deeply for the young human that has come through my classroom door and needs me. It has been suggested that I should let much of my work go and do only what I can while there. I am not sure about this statement. It tortures me actually. I am uncertain if I can lower the expectations that I have set for myself. I am uncertain of it all. This, I am afraid, especially during the moments where my body is screaming at me, when my jaw is tightening to the point where I strain to talk, will be my demise. Maybe not my demise as a human just yet, but my demise as an educator.
I recently had a parent send an email to my district administrators. She basically said how thankful she was that I made a strong connection right away with her son. He is someone who struggles functioning because of his mental health, and she said in her email that I was the reason he wanted to continue coming to class. This gave me a little of my breath back. It helped me distinguish just a little of the fire. However, I realize if I focus my energy on him, helping and connecting with him, as well as my other students, and then attempt to do my best with all of the other tasks that I am required, I will fall head first back into the fire, perhaps burning myself so bad it will ravage my body. The signs are there. I feel this year may require a large extinguisher to put out the flames.
My hope is that someday the typhoon of education will level, or at least become a large wave. Yes, we educators are strong swimmers, so a large wave would be manageable. However, I am uncertain if the powers that be, the community and nation as a whole, and the families, quite understand what is happening. Education is the foundation of what builds this country. I believe we just saw the impact and reality of that during the pandemic. If we continue to have this mass exodus. If we continue to drown our teachers in unnecessary training, paperwork, and lack of support, we will crack our foundation until it crumbles. Actually, the crack is already happening. The levee to the dam is about to release. My regret, the thing that makes me sit in tears at times, is our children will suffer. When they do, teachers will be to blame for taking care of themselves and leaving the field. Why? Well, we often look for blame in situations that are totally in our control but we let it get out of control. If I could ask the nation, the politicians, the school boards, administrators to reflect, to be mindful, I believe they would see that teachers aren’t to blame at all.
As for me, I will find a way. I always do. I find a way to come to the brink of what I feel will be my extinction from being an educator and I manage to hang on. However, at what cost? I recently sat with my wife, told her about the pain in my body, the anxiety and depression, and how I feel that no matter how much I take care of myself, exercise, eat right, and be mindful, that stress may catch up to me. It may kill me. As we hugged and shared tears, she said, “Is it time to do something else?” The thought haunts me.
I love to teach. I love connecting with my students and showing them a new way of thinking. I strive to help them navigate their mental health and the struggles that they face as young people. I am good at it. I prioritize building relationships because I know that is what truly matters in my field. I am the educator who finds that one student sitting alone, looking desperate, and I reach out to them, offering them my compassion and empathy. I have had students tell me I saved them. I helped them to the point that made them want to live and heal and find a better way. I have tried to deny that impact for years because it is difficult for me to admit I have had any impact, but it’s all there. My students’ pictures are hanging onto the wall in my mind reminding me of my purpose, and they are my reason to keep going. That is why it haunts me to think about leaving education. I think, “What if there is a kid out there that needs me? Maybe next year or next month, but what if they are there? They may not know it but they wait for me to make that connection that will help them build the skills needed to survive and take notice of their worth.”
But, to what extent? Will all of the other debris in the typhoon tear me up and continue to bruise me? Will it lead to my soul drowning? Will the pain caused by stress in my body be worth it? The pain in my mind and the torture that anxiety brings? Will my depression lead to more thoughts of leaving this world and sparing all of you my words?
My plea to all of you is to notice that this is not unique to me. It is why we have a crisis in education. Our teachers suffer and have chosen to not perish among the flood. Stop it before our kids do too.
I am in my second year after being diagnosed with Multi Myeloma (Bone Cancer). The life expectancy is as low as 2.5 years and tops 4 years. I kept the depression and anxiety levels down the first year, not because of denial but the sheer strength of my mind. In the second year, the depression and anxiety returned with a vengeance. I have gotten weaker and fatigued and have this sense of urgency about accomplishing what I have wanted since retirement: writing. I have published several books of poetry, including an autobiography about my daughter, who passed away in 2010. I have begun my own life story this past year. Then this cloud that many carry above them, depression, and anxiety. I have found that poetry is making a comeback, but slowly. Sales have not been at the top of my money chart. Another worry is that I am starting something that I will not have time to finish. My life has been long, more of a saga, filled with bits of happiness given to me by my children and emotional and physical abuse woven in and out throughout the years.
The urgency involves my writing. I have been writing since I could print words, simple words. Poems for my aunt and daddy, which she would destroy if found by my mother. I had been told since I was old enough to remember that I would never be anything because I was not as beautiful as my sister Billie nor as bright; all I could hope for was to marry and have someone take care of me. This non-encouragement caused me to work toward good grades and educate myself if schooling was not available. Like many southern girls, I was married “off” to someone much older than me, an abuser. I never gave up wanting to write. I was a closet writer until I retired from the public workforce, fearing that it would be destroyed if it was found.
This brings me to when I give thought to be a writer. Also, what type of writer did I want to be. I have always loved poetry; my poetry books are filled with heartache and anguish that was my life. Many have said that it was “dark” poetry. It was mainly dark as it was given birth from that dark place within me. Many have suggested that I seek help and counseling. Don’t we all need counseling in some form, depression, and/or anxiety?
To be a writer, one must have good communication skills and be able to share a point concisely and clearly. I began years ago by keeping a daily journal; with this journal, I could draw upon incidents in my life that would allow me to put them into my poetry or short stories. I have been told that writing is never a lonely activity; for me, it was because I have always thought of myself as a loner. I turn within, thinking about what I wanted to say, how I wanted to write it to bring others into my “dark” world of reading what I wrote. I know I am not alone; many carry the same burdens that I do, much worse than mine. We may not be alone, but it is a lonely world for me. A world where I can hide and play the part needed to be played.
I have never looked at my writing as a job, one I could make a living regularly doing; be another Sylvia Plath or Grace Paley. That was why I waited until retirement to pursue my desire to write. I write because I love to create, to share with others. Yet, to share those, others must buy my books; maybe poetry was not the best choice. Perhaps a collection of short stories would have been more profitable? However, once again, urgency raises its worrisome head. There are constant changes in publishing and marketing, and I try to keep up with those when necessary. Writers must have adaptability when needed. Discipline is something that comes naturally to me. However, with cancer, treatments and the side effects that come with it does override discipline. It overshadows time, fatigue takes over no matter how committed I may be, and my challenges are health problems I have no control over.
I am organized, have a designated workspace, and have all the proper writing tools; I research what is needed to put out the correct information. I edit, edit, edit…I know what I want to write. I follow all the principles and have proofreaders. I copyright my material. I have had this blog for years. I am a people watcher, listen to tones, and am always mindful of syntax. I try to switch topics, poetry, short stories, newsworthy information, and opinions in my blog. I try to think critically, change styles, and learn new techniques. I follow some social media. However, I am a loner and a lone thinker.
There are two things that I need to observe. Slip away from fatigue and pain; my work may be more productive. Secondly, sales!
It has been a very long day for me, so I will leave you with this, never give up on your dreams.
The hours before dawn, and a cold rain pounds into my heart. The grief is fierce as it raises and consumes my spirit, assaulting my senses. Memories emerge from the darkness, becoming one with my soul. In the depths of my wounded courage, I am listing in a sea of sorrow, my life filled with more grief than many can bear. It is the hard cold hour before departing this misery.
I search for a miracle; hope merges with despair; my destiny is to leave all I have ever loved. I am uncertain and afraid. Hope has expired. Sometimes waves of anger and fear hang above me, a cloud circulating over the earth. I do not speak of death. Yet, the elderly where I reside; talk until they see their own grave over the horizon.
Much is written about grief, soft words meant to calm the grieving heart. There will be those who say how lovely these words are, and I doubt they are all true. Grief is not calm and comforting; the comments do not stop the pain. Words penetrate the brain; they shatter the heart.
Most are choked with emotions under the flesh where the heart is sheltered by outward affliction; they close their eyes, hoping to have the scene before they disappear. Grief has no place to hide! The speaker believes the words that enter the ears will comfort despair.
Note: This short prose may be a bit raunchy. My mother had a hard time growing up the oldest of nine children. However, the story is true and has been told to me by my mother many times. The mid-1920s was when people were no different than they are today. The difference was many lives were built on generations of secrets and lies. She was in her eighties when I last heard it. It made me smile then as it has today. E.
The Mountainside Whore
At my age, remembering the past is no small feat! However, my mother was the oldest of nine children, and with her daddy’s free field hand, she was made to quit school in the third grade.
She was allowed to go to Hartselle shopping on many occasions with her daddy. She had spoken of how these were the only times she felt free, alone with her daddy, free of taking care of eight children. Her mother was always pregnant. Being the oldest, she cared for the house, barn, and field chores, as a midwife and cared for the children.
Her mama came from money. She married money; within time, her daddy had sold off all the lands he owned to take care of his habit of drinking and women. Her mother was “lazy” when a child was born; Ruth’s duty was to raise them. Her daddy was also “lazy,” home long enough to get her mother pregnant, eat, and leave orders for Ruth to do while he was gone.
On that day, her daddy told her to stay outside the store, that he was getting something she could not know about.
“You sit outside, sister girl.” He mumbled between spitting the plug of tobacco that left permanent stains on the edges of his mouth.
She had always been called “sister girl,” he went into the Hartselle Mercantile, where he came out with a big box later during one trip. She thought he had bought something for her mama. She watched as he later hid it in the barn’s loft; he knew her mama would never go up there. She was afraid of snakes that sometimes crawled up there to keep warm.
Later, Ruth crawled up in the barn loft, digging around until she found the box. Inside was a beautiful red dress, shiny like a new penny. She put it back, knowing that her mama would be so surprised when he gave it to her. My mother, a scrawny little girl, turned into a demon the following Sunday. She could not hold her anger. She stood on the front pew of the tiny, whitewashed church, demanding that it was her mama’s dress and the “Mountainside Whore” was to take it off. Knowing what was in the box, the “Mountainside Whore” wore the red dress.
“Take that dress off, you whore; it’s my mama’s.” It felt like her voice was echoing throughout the Tennessee Valley.
The entire congregation turned to see who she was screaming at; mostly, they could see a red streak running out of the church with a scrawny little girl chasing her, tiny fist in the air. That was when the entire family left the church in silence. The preacher raised his hands to the choir, and instantly all anyone could hear was “In the sweet bye-bye.”
Her mama never returned to church again. Yet, it didn’t stop her daddy from visiting the Mountainside Whore in the red dress on Saturday nights. When my mother told this story, she would call her daddy a “Whoremonger”.
The young woman regaining her composure, went back to church every Sunday. She lived way into her nineties and asked to be buried in that shiny red dress. As she aged, she would often tell her life story on the mountainside; it was hard to believe as all most could see were the wrinkles and dark aged spots.
She was a beautiful woman and had a grand funeral from what she saved through the years, an open casket for all to see that she was the young girl in the shiny red dress. Who would want anyone who was only known as the “Mountainside Whore”? She is never married.