Sunday, August 28, 2016

Anxiety.Depression.Purpose

Since JJ’s birthday I have been struggling with deep and extreme grief. Grief can come in all sorts of different forms and hits hard at moments when you least expect it. Some days and nights are better than others. And some hours fall upon you like a tidal wave with no warning or no obvious triggers. I have been visiting a counselor more or less weekly which has been incredibly helpful. Family (both Deckers and Buhanans) have been amazing emotional supports in helping me explore my feelings and experiences. New and old friends have been powerful to open up to with all of my loss, fears and hopes about my broken heart and broken life. One of the greatest places that I have found guidance and solace though is from absent angel and best friend Sharry.




I have been reading through Sharry’s journals which is a powerful activity that is both heart melting with amazing memories and catastrophic with those not so great times and love lost. I often told Sharry sincerely that there is only one thing that I would change about her. Her level of self confidence and self criticism. You might think that a person as beautiful, talented, bright, kind, cool and likable as Sharry would think pretty highly of herself. Unfortunately this was not the case. I often would tease her that this worked for my benefit because otherwise she would not have ended up with someone so far below her level. That truth aside, her confidence and criticism were often a source of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. And I know she is not alone in this. The top two reasons people go to the counselor for mental health reasons are anxiety and depression. Reading her journals has provided agonizing insights into those struggles and periods of darkness. It is especially difficult because the last twelve years were in all sincerity year after year the best year of my life. I don’t think this was true for Shar. And that fills my mind with regrets and remorse. I wish I would’ve done more to help her with those tough times and thoughts...I’m a freaking counselor for crying out loud! 


Thankfully Shar’s journals are full of good times, personal entries on love and gratitude. Plenty of sweet mixed in with the bitter. She wrote often of our relationship (overwhelmingly positive) being ideal and how she truly found her soul mate. She wrote of deep gratitude, love and connection she had with her family and friends. But the lesson she is teaching me now (I definitely learned more from her than she me) is to be engaged in life. I recently read her journal covering the second half of 2011 and first half of 2012. And these journal entries are some of the most consistently hopeful, positive and joyful of Shar’s entire writings. The reasons are many but the overarching theme is that of purpose, experiences and action. We were engaged in a spiritual community, went on fun trips, hikes, campouts and the biggest experience was Occupy Salt Lake City. Sharry was a passionate volunteer and activist and Occupy was an extraordinary way to channel that energy. It was done in a way that brought a voice and light to the corruption and inequality happening in our country and communities. We camped in pioneer park, spoke at rallies, led group meditations, were leaders in the “sacred space” and just had an amazing sense of community and purpose guided by a cause greater than ourselves. This is a theme that is found throughout Sharry’s journals. Periods of anxiety induced darkness broken by the light of amazing experiences and higher causes.



Right now in my life I am in the midst of the greatest darkness my life has ever and probably will ever know. I have no idea how long it will last at this all encompassing level but I need to follow Sharry’s lead and find a greater purpose. Where will I find it? I have some ideas and passions. Faith (connecting with the divine, hope for a forever with Shar and a loving community), my awesome job as a high school counselor, and being an advocate for a brighter future both environmentally and socially. So many different ways one can fill your life with purpose and light to dispel the darkness.




I wanted to close with an insightful old Buddhist parable about grief and a solution as well as a powerful video by the Christian pastor Rob Bell about using anger and negative emotions for good.

There is an old Buddhist tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and asked, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?"


Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.


She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."


They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.


The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my my own?"


She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune.

The woman became so involved in helping others cope with their sorrows that she eventually let go of her own. She would later come to understand that it was the quest to find the magical mustard seed that drove away her suffering.

This is the path I hope to take, I need to take. And I hope and pray with all the faith and love my soul can offer that wherever Sharry is she sees herself as she truly is. A breathtakingly beautiful, huge hearted, crazy talented, agonizingly missed, amazing mama angel. #livelikeShar 


Rob Bell's really good Nooma "Store", using hard emotions for good

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Love letter to Midvale Middle

 
Midvale Middle School I love and miss you so much. Many of you may already know but this summer what was supposed to be the happiest day of my with a new baby boy ended up being completely the opposite when my beautiful best friend Sharry died through a freak complication, amniotic fluid embolism. My baby boy JJ survived and is doing well. I was so excited to bring him so that you can meet him. I am completely overwhelmed as a new single parent so I have moved down to St. George where my parents and Sharry’s parents live. An amazing door opened up when I was offered a counseling job at Dixie High School. I have been working there for a couple of weeks and have pleasantly surprised with how much I like it so far. But it isn’t my Midvale family. This summer I lost the woman of my dreams and my dream job.


To the staff and teachers:
You are amazing. I have never been anywhere where a group of unique individuals work collectively for such a great cause. You are talented, fun, funny, driven, kind and compassionate. Most importantly you care deeply about the students and it shows in your work and your passion. I never remember being treated unkindly or rudely by any of you even when we over filled your classes or invaded your rooms for crazy counselor lessons. Sharry and I led very insular lives because I was completely happy being with her and that’s all I ever wanted outside of work. But it is important to me for you to know over the last four years outside of family many of you have been some of my greatest friends that made my world a better place. Please please please continue to be the fabulous, kind and inspirational people that you are. I sincerely wish you success, peace and love in your work and in your personal lives. Please stay in touch.



To my beloved students:
My heart breaks whenever I think about Midvale and how I don’t get to be there and see all of your beautiful faces every day. I sincerely love and care about you as a group and as individuals. Obviously some of you I got to know better than others but I hope all of you that I had an opportunity to work with in any capacity could tell that I cared about you...because I did and do. I know middle school is not the greatest time in life. Ask any adult if they loved middle school and the majority will scoff or at least answer in the negative. It is a time where you are stretching your budding wings, discovering what sets you apart as an incredible individual. This is incredibly exciting and can be terrifying for you and your parents. Here are some hopes and advice from your goofy counselor who fell in love with a bunch of 6th, 7th and 8th graders.
  • Be kind to each other. You never know what secret troubles others are dealing with. We are all insecure and yes it is sometimes awkward to be nice to others that aren’t your friends but you will rarely if ever regret it.
  • Be smart with technology, video games and social media. I have seen this summer the amazing goodness that can come through social media as people have reached out to me offering support in many ways. However often it can be a source of negativity, addicting and simply a distraction. Be smart with what you consume and set limits.
  • Be grateful. Look for the good. Obviously if someone or something is hurting you get help ASAP none of you deserve any kind of abuse or serious pain in your lives. But often life can simply be pretty hard and it is easier if we can train our brains to look for the good and be grateful. Keep a gratitude journal!
  • Education is important. Don’t roll your eyes at this one haha. Pretty much any big goal you have in life education will either directly or indirectly help you with that goal. Generally more education = more $, more job options, less poverty, less addictions, less abuse, greater joy
  • Get involved. I don’t care how or where. School stuff, clubs, sports, in your neighborhood, teams, service, church, anything. If you are involved in stuff you enjoy or making the world better you will have more friends and more happiness.
  • Relationships and experiences are all that matter. I know this now more than ever. We spend so much time, money and emotional energy on stuff that does not matter. If you knew you only had one more day left with your friends or family how would you act differently? Phones, video games, clothes and things are fun but do not bring lasting happiness. People that love us and we love them do bring happiness. Awesome experiences (small and big) create memories that you can constantly go back to.



I want each of you to find success in your hopes and dreams. I hope and pray that each of you will fill your life with love and meaning. That you use your unique insights, talents and passions to be a force for good, light and love in the world. It is easy to watch the news and be incredibly depressed at the state of things. But I think of you my amazing Midvale students and you fill my heart with hope. Hope that the world my beautiful baby JJ grows up in will be a better place. Thank you so much for the difference you all have made in my life. I plan on visiting MMS at least a couple of times this year but if our paths ever cross outside of that please don't hesitate to say hello.

You are in great hands with Ms Baker and Mr Eason
Love you always,
Jared Buhanan-Decker (aka Mr B-D)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bucket list: road map for BD3

I already wrote about Shar’s bucket list items that we had already completed together. Now I wanted to share the road map that she has left for me and JJ to follow going forward in life. All of the below writings were pulled from her journals both physical and online. Most she wrote within the last year. I will annotate in red and emojis.

What do I envision for my life?
No bucket list would be complete without a summary, a letter to life, a mission statement. Through our first 30 years, and especially the 12 years together, Jared and I have both been so blessed. First and foremost we were lucky enough to find each other. I’ve never met another soul so suited to mine, another person so connected to me, or another human I never seem to tire of. I 100% agree with these statements. I was so incredibly lucky to find her and she incredibly suited for me. My life of love and adventure, art and literature, family and friends- begins and ends with him. The longer we are together, the more my heart becomes a part of his and molds into one, somewhat unhealthy, enlarged pumping organ that cannot be separated without killing both. Amen again! I am missing my other half emotionally, spiritually and in many ways it feels like physically!

31 Weeks
And when I look into the future, I see Jared and I heading into a mix of the past and dreams- love and heartbreak, happiness and disappointment, learning and questioning, and adventure and boredom. Sharry was so much better at looking to the future and planning the big and the small. Right now my future is completely empty save for this list! There will be travel, and campouts, and great literature, and strangeness. And while some of the time will be spent celebrating, relaxing, and enjoying- other time with be for fearing, dodging, and recovering. Definitely in the fearing, dodging and recovering stage. Ultimately, I guess creating our own narrative is really what keeps us alive and in this journey together, our is a love story. Eleanor Roosevelt once said good things only come to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. My dream is to be forever with my baby girl and have a happy together family and I definitely believe in the beauty of that.


For me, I envision my life as a lover, a writer, and a mother.
a traveler.
a hiker.
a reader.
an artist.
an environmentalist.
an activist.
a naturalist.
a debt free living desert rat.
a peacenik.


I want our home to be a place of Sunday dinners, Saturday brunches, Thanksgiving dinners, and summer garden parties. A safe space, a gathering place.


No matter how easy entertainment is to access in this digital age, these are mostly distractions from real-life experiences. Of course, real life has a lot more struggle and hardship than easy entertainment, but it is this living, this living, this living- that gives us meaning. This one is critical for me. To find worthwhile real experiences rather than inundating our lives with entertaining distractions.


What will be the most memorable things in the next 20 years of my life? 😭
Baby births, family time, family deaths, buying a house, writing a book, sailing (and other adventures), IVF, holidays
And the last 20 years?
Finding bubby 💞♥


Things TO DO during our lifetime:
( ) Seen the Northern Lights
( ) Been down Bourbon Street in New Orleans
( ) Danced in the rain-naked
(  ) Been to Niagara Falls
( ) Been White Water Rafting
( ) Written a book or screen play we always talked about writing a children’s book together...try to make this happen
(  ) March on Washington
(  ) Reach enlightenment
(  ) Become a sage
(  ) Find a spiritual home
(  ) Learn to love (and accept) myself
(  ) Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Austin city limits, Newport folk fest,
(  ) Backpack through Eastern Europe (2017!)
(  ) See the seven world wonders (Taj Mahal, Petra, Chichen Itza, Christ Statue, (X)Colosseum, Great Wall, Machu Picchu)
(  ) Travel the world: One big trip a year
(  ) Go to India
(  ) Find the meaning to life
(  ) Accept everyone
(  ) Be a peacemaker
(  ) Write multiple books- poetry, fiction, Young Radicals
(  ) Meet a President
(  ) Watch my children grow old Oh man this one is incredibly sad and not fair. Hopefully in some form she will.
(  ) Kids: large college savings accounts
(  ) Kids: Roth IRA (3,000 for 5yrs/each)
(  ) Learn to really love others
(  ) Read the top 100 books
(  ) Learn Spanish
(  ) Have my art exhibited in a gallery
(  ) Get a Ph.D
(  ) Be self-sufficient; “I’ve got to get myself back to the garden,”
(  ) Become less materialistic
(  ) Become even-tempered
(  ) Cloth the naked and feed the hungry She had such Christ-like goals
(  ) Get a VW and rubber tramp (gypsy)
(  ) Overcome fears: Public speaking/ singing, Making friends, Taking chances, Insects, Heights, Insults, Loneliness  
(  ) Have a campfire funeral We actually did this one for her with family and a couple of really close friends
(  ) Learn to play the dulcimer
(  ) Spend my evenings sitting on a porch, watching the sunset
(  ) Change the world
(  ) Join Peace Corps (public>nonprofit)
(  ) See Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn
(  ) Hike the Appalachian trail, The Narrows, Everest Base Camp, (x)Kalalau Trail (Hawaii), Bay of Fires, Machu
(  ) Open a venue for upcoming music
(  ) Become financially independent
(X) Consult a clairvoyant gypsy Checked off on California Pilgrimage 10/13/16
(  ) Summer evening candle dinners
(  ) Overcome anxiety
(  ) Live nine lives: 1. Lover, 2. Activist, 3. Artist, 4. Traveler, 5. Learner, 6. Mother, 7. Humanitarian, 8. Worker, 9. Writer  She was well on her way for the majority of these
(  ) Live communally
(  ) Join a union (and help organize)
(  ) Learn to sail- go from France to Turkey
(  ) Find my own Walden
(  ) Treasure hunt student grants, creative giving ($10k- get back to nature and education)
This is the last item that Sharry added to her list and I plan on making it happen this fall, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for a Sharry Buhanan-Decker treasure hunt scholarship
From her journal 30 before 30...everyone has to have a bucket list before they reach the end of their 20’s right?
  1. Get pregnant/have a baby (yep, we’re pretty wild) JJ
  2. Buy a house bought and sold haha
  3. Save, save, save, save, save
  4. Work on my writing continually my lesser words bombard her blog
  5. Read 52 more books definitely not and full of books on grief, widowhood and out of body experiences
  6. Travel internationally one or two more times hmmm dunno about this without Shar
  7. cut down on sugar
  8. cut down on milk, eggs and cheese (for the animals)
  9. Pray daily BIG yes
  10. open my heart to magic YES please, I need some magic
  11. Get up before work and get things done uhhh no
  12. hone skills in grant writing
  13. hone skills in photoshop and graphic design
  14. hone skills in photography
  15. Make a friend at church
  16. Find a real community and get involved
  17. become a backpacker (w/ baby)
  18. learn to sail
  19. stop cussing...for the babies definitely a good idea
  20. produce a rough draft of my book
  21. show gratitude daily never a bad idea
  22. meet the dalai lama (he canceled trip to slcc)
  23. help elect a democrat for president we tried hard for Bernie, The Donald will do the rest
  24. host a 10 year wedding anniversary party she wanted a big beautiful party )o:
  25. hike, hike, hike, hike, hike
  26. host beautiful outdoor baby blessing definitely plan on this
  27. go natural health and beauty products
  28. hike kalalau trail in hawaii
  29. gain patience single parenthood forces this
  30. live without attachment uhhh not going to happen way too attached to my baby girl
Man I’m such a square (o:


As you can see this is a wonderful road map to guide JJ and into the scary, lonely and unknown future. Shar is amazing and will continue to be our guiding star.