Lung Cancer Awareness

mesothelioma facts

About a week ago I received an email from a young woman named Heather Von St. James, asking me to post some information to bring awareness about lung disorders and diseases for Lung Cancer Awareness month.  Since I’m a former smoker who still lives in fear of developing lung cancer…of course I said yes.

And since I’m me…I’m a little late.  Sorry Heather.

Heather says that it was in the month of November that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma which is a rare cancer that impacts approximately 3,000 people per year.  You can read her story here http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather.  Inspiring is an understatement.  Give it a read and watch her video.  I dare you not to be affected.

She’s an awesome lady…and not just because she has short, rock star hair and ink.  But for me, that certainly helps.  (Just kidding!!!!  Maybe.)

She sent me the following links to help educate me (and you) on the causes, symptoms and treatment for this rare form of lung cancer.  Her goal is to raise awareness about all lung diseases including mesothelioma which, in spite of annoying attorney commercials, doesn’t get enough real, life changing, funds raising attention in the U.S.

For more information on mesothelioma you can go to http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma.

Thank you Heather for reaching out and for all you do to make people aware of this horrible disease.  I hope I’ve helped in some small way.

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Again

I got some truly amazing comments on my post yesterday about The Before.  It resonated with a lot of people which made me happy because, well that’s why we’re all out here right?  That, and the cheap therapy.

One comment in particular has been stuck in my brain since yesterday and I have to write about it or it will be up there tumbling around unaccompanied until it drives me batshit crazy.  So to avoid all that drama – I’ll be writing about it here.

Josie over at The Miracle Is Around the Corner commented that she feels like she’s in The Before when it comes to her eating and exercise plan and that it feels just like it did when she was in The Before of her drinking career.  She and I have discussed this, so she knew I would understand (which I DO).  Pop onto yesterday’s post and check out her comment – it was awesome.

The reason I get it is because it’s the same for me.  The only difference is that this particular Before has been going on for me since fucking puberty.  It’s been rolling around in my brain and making me miserable since I was about 12.  That’s almost 42 years of bullshit brain activity (or approximately 336 dog years). 

What the what?

This is my 474th post on this blog.  Of those posts, I would estimated that at least 1/4 to 1/3 of them are about eating, exercising, dieting, body image, etc.  That means between 119 and 158 posts have been written about my struggles not with alcohol but with FOOD.  That feels like a lot to be on a blog that is supposed to be about sobriety.  Maybe it’s not.  What the hell do I know?

What bothers me is the up and down in and out back and forth of the whole thing.  One day I’ve got this killer eating plan and I’m exercising every day, the next day I’m stuffing my face with Oreo’s and Halloween candy and my self-esteem is in the toilet.  One day I’ve sworn off thinking about food and I’m just going to learn to love myself the way I am, the next day the doctor calls me “obese” and I’m crying in my Diet Pepsi.  One day I’m meditating and practicing self-care and telling myself only good things, and the next I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I swear I’m not going to eat until my 55th birthday by which time (in 2016 btw) I will have lost approximately half my body weight and have to check into Betty Ford for an eating disorder.

I’m not making fun of eating disorders by the way – I’m saying that thinking like this IS NOT HEALTHY.

Where does it stop?  Unlike cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or gambling, WE HAVE TO EAT!  What’s more, food is one of the greatest joys of life.  Sharing a meal with friends and family is a beautiful thing.  Sitting down to a table of food made with love (including dessert and bread) is a blessing that I never take for granted.  (There are too many people in the world that never have enough to eat.)  All this bullshit going on in my head ruins that joy if I let it get away from me.

Which I do.

Often.

I wish that for once in my life I could make peace with sustenance.  I wish I could find a happy place that was free of guilt or shame or self-righteousness (when I’m doing well I can get very self-righteous).  I wish I could learn to treat food as sacred and, in turn, treat myself that way.

I know there’s a root to this issue that I’ve yet to uncover.  I’ve read book after book on the subject.  I’ve scoured the Internet and plunked down lots of cash in an effort to understand what’s going on with me and food.  I’ve been to nutritionists and spas and doctors in a desperate attempt to right this ship.  And here I am typing about it again.

I often talk about wanting to get back to the way I was when I was in my 30’s and early 40’s.  Now I’m not so sure.  While it’s true that I was at a healthy weight and was extremely fit, the fact is that I was not happy.  The shit going on in my head now was there then – a constant stream of consciousness about what I was eating, where, how much and how much exercise I needed to do.  That’s not healthy.  It also wasn’t very joyful.  It was, in fact, a Before.

There really is no point to this post.  No pithy comment that will make you think, “Yes!  That’s it!”  Only a recovering alcoholic, ex-smoker who would love, for once in her life, to find peace of mind on a plate.  I have no idea how I’m going to get there or even if I’ll ever get there.  I just know I have to keep trying because, as I said yesterday, The Before is no way to live.

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Before

There is always a lot of discussion about our lives after we got sober or what particular “bottom” resulted in us getting sober.  There’s talk about our drinking careers, lives ruined, people pissed, DUI’s, jobs lost, blah, blah, blah.  Then there’s talk about the first day, the second day, the first weekend, the first birthday, first Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and all other reasons we alcoholics loved to get our drink on but were no longer allowed.  We cheer for milestones because, let’s face it, if this were a cake walk I wouldn’t be blogging and I suspect neither would a lot of my friends.  We even discuss our methods of staying sober whether it’s AA, SMART, blogging, therapy or some form of medication.  It’s awesome that it’s out here, for anyone to read and to take what they need and leave the rest.

Recently however, I’ve noticed a gap in all of these heartfelt and thought-provoking discussions.  I call it “The Before”.  For me The Before was the time when I knew I had a problem but hadn’t yet truly committed to sobriety.  I was still drinking, or relapsing, or drinking or relapsing.  What’s more I was thinking and thinking and THINKING about how I needed to maybe be sober for like…forever but not today.  Maybe tomorrow.  Or next week – on Monday.  Or Thanksgiving – no wait…the Holidays are hard maybe New Year’s day since I’ll already have a hangover.

See what I mean.

When I look back I see that this was the most difficult part of my journey.  Not the first few days or the first weekend or the first birthday or the first anything.  It was The Before.  The Before was the toughest because I had no peace of mind.  Hell…I had no peace of anything during that time.  My brain chattered on and on and on and just would not be still.  No matter what I did I could not convince it to just shut the fuck up and leave me the hell alone.

It’s a funny thing about my brain, or higher power or conscience or whatever.  Once an idea that is fundamentally right has been awakened it will not rest until I’ve done something about it.  The thing is that this can conceivably go on for years and years and years before I actually get around to doing something about it.

Finally putting down my wine glass was no different.  I remember very clearly the first time the idea that I had a problem popped into my head.  The hubs and I had just moved in together which means I was in my early twenties.  We came home from a night out and I could barely walk.  I face planted into the bed and said, “I think I have a drinking problem.”  He thought I was kidding but I knew, way down deep in my gut, that the way I drank wasn’t normal.  I also knew that one day I’d have to do something about it but the thought was so repulsive I stuffed it down…for the next 25 years or so.

As the years went on I grew more and more aware of how much I drank and that, once I got started I was not able to quit.  What frightened me more was how much I thought about drinking.  All that planning and thinking and manipulating was not only tiresome but it signaled a much deeper problem.  One I refused to admit out loud but that my gut knew was true.  Then came the second time I saw my son cry because I was drunk.  That’s when I knew something had to be done. 

I can’t count the number of starts and stops I had after that moment but there were a lot of them.  I’d get a few days or weeks or even months under my belt before I’d proclaim myself fine and start The Before all over again.  The Before that resulted in the looks of disappointment on the faces of my family when they saw me bring in a bottle or three of wine. The constant beratement of myself because I was weak, or a fraud, or a bad person or bad mom or horrible wife until I finally just had to drink away the self-deprecation which only made me hate myself more.  The promises before my feet hit the floor the next morning that I would never drink again…followed by a loss of my resolve somewhere around 2:00 pm which led to the grocery store and more wine.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then there was the endless noise in my head about drinking…always about drinking.  Why, when, and how?  What it was doing to my kids.  What is was doing to my marriage.  My job.  My health.  When will I quit again? (There was no longer an issue of “if” it was now “when”.)  Planning, planning, planning for that day – only to chicken out at the 11th hour and start the planning process again.  I was unhappy no matter which way I turned.  If I didn’t quit I was horrible, if I did I was angry.  Lose-lose.  I was a loser no matter what.

Of course one day something clicked and here I am almost five years later sober as a judge and healthier and happier than I’ve ever been.  I wish I could tell you what switch finally flipped but I can’t.  I can (and have) told you what made me try…again, but I can’t explain why I stayed sober.  I guess I just got so sick and tired of the constant negativity in my head and I felt that I didn’t have any other choice.  I think I just decided that I couldn’t listen to that crap for one more goddamned day (little g).

The rest of the journey was difficult, at first, but the thought of going back to The Before is what kept me sober that first year and still, quietly, keeps me sober now.  That dark and ugly Before is not a place that anyone should be. 

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Empty Nests are Emptier at Christmas

Okay, so my nest isn’t completely empty but it’s emptying at an alarming rate and quite frankly is sucks ass more than anything has ever sucked ass before or since.  So there!

To be honest, I’m spoiled because my one child is in an apartment near school that’s only a 20 minute drive from our house and the other two are still technically living at home so I do get to see them more than other parents get to see their college age kids.  But I’m having a tantrum here so you’ll just have to bear with me and deal with my whining.

The part that sucks is that while their bodies are near their heads are GONE.  They’ve got LIVES separate and apart from ours and it feels really weird.  I was in Target yesterday because, well…that’s my happy place…and I wandered over to the Christmas section.  There were stocking stuffers and bedazzled Christmas Trees and carols playing and all manner of ornaments, stockings and lights to be purchased.  A little farther down were aisles and aisles of toys and games and puzzles and dolls just waiting for Santa’s elves to swoop in and purchase them once Christmas lists have been completed.  I was there to soak up all the warm and fuzzy’s because that’s how I’m rolling this year.  Right?

No…because it wasn’t warm and fuzzy…it was cold and sad.  Why?  Because I was there alone.  Normally being alone in Target is my nirvana.  A fountain soft drink or Starbucks coffee in hand and I can wander those aisles for ever and never buy a thing (well at least I try to keep it under $100).  My blood pressure goes down, my permafrown turns upward and I leave a little broker but a lot happier.

Not yesterday though.  One of the things I used to love to do was take the boys shopping at Christmas time.  I loved to watch their faces light up when they saw the trees right after Halloween (while I stuffed down all my feelings I let theirs run amok) and listened as they ooo’d and ahhhh’d over all the stuff they wanted Santa to bring.  Even after they got older I liked to watch them try on clothes or pick out the latest video game.  Then we’d get a soda or a frap and talk about Christmas all the way home.

Even as recent as last Christmas this was still happening.  Perhaps more infrequent and not all three (or four) at once but one on one I’d get to experience it.  Something happened this year however that changed all that – they turned into adults with lives of their own.

Shit.

I didn’t even realize that the Target Experience was a thing until I found myself alone in the “seasonal” aisle.  I swear to God I started to cry and had to get the hell out of there before I embarrassed myself any further.  As I sat in the car sniffling I texted my boys…

“I HATE being in Target without my boys at Christmas.  Empty nesting SUCKS!”

One replied…

“I’m coming home soon mom.  You could have asked.”

And I said…

“Dude – you were busy and it’s my JOB to LET YOU GO.”

Later he told me that if I was supposed to let him go I shouldn’t send texts like that.  I let him know that even though it was my job, I didn’t have to like it and he’d just have to deal with his crazy mother a little while longer.

The other twin sent me this…

“I HATE having to work on the weekends and not go to Target with you.  Being an adult sucks!”

Well played my son…well played.

The third didn’t reply at all which is completely normal for him.  Texts like that don’t require responses in his mind.  Did I mention he’s the most practical of those three? 

Anyway, after I got home I cried on the hubs shoulder and told him to dust off his shopping shoes because he was going to have to get used to shopping with me again – like we did before we had these love sucking heathen children.

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Holiday Strategy

Like most recovering alcoholics I have triggers.  Even after all this time they still pop up and bite me in the ass from time to time.  They aren’t scary to me any longer but they are uncomfortable so, when possible, I try to avoid them.

For instance, I used to entertain like a crazy woman.  Any excuse to throw a party and I was on it!  Even before I was drinking everyday, I loved having people in my home, feeding them, showing off my house, socializing and having everyone say what a wonderful hostess I was.  My kids grew up with regularly scheduled events and they love it as well.

Now the mere thought of entertaining makes me anxious.  I’ve thrown a few parties since I got sober but the amount of energy I have to expend before, during and after, is not worth the effort.  I don’t get enough out of it to justify the level of anxiety, angst and longing for a cold glass of Chardonnay to hold while I mingle and sip gulp my wine.  It’s so much more comfortable to me to attend parties thrown by others where I can show up late and leave early or, sometimes, not go at all.

One of my other HUGE triggers is “The Holiday Season”.  I’m sure it surprises no one to learn this since there are endless posts that have been written and will be written on how to survive the season of revelry and holiday “spirit”.  I refuse to pass judgement on anyone else for what, when and how much they drink especially during this season of love and goodwill because this issue is not theirs…it’s mine.  I’m the one with the drinking problem.  I’m the one that has to figure out how do deal with it.

And so I have…learned to deal with it that is.  For instance, I seldom attend anyone else’s Christmas celebration.  Since the hubs and I have gotten older, I confess that the invitations are now few and far between (thank God for small favors) but we still get one or two per season.  Some of my friends don’t even bother to invite me if they know it will be a boozy affair (which still, to this day, hurts my feelings – I’d rather turn it down then be left out – scars from high school I guess); while others invite us but understand completely when I say we won’t be there.

As I stated earlier,  if I decide to attend I arrive fashionably late and leave early.  I hold tight to the fact that I will be comfortably ensconced in my cozy bed before the party is over and that I will sleep the sleep of the sober people and wake without a hangover.  This remains the strongest tool in my arsenal.  Damn I love my sober sleep.

I also try to stay as cozy as possible during the holidays.  By this I mean that I have a picture in my head of what the word “cozy” means – it’s snuggled by the tree with the  lights low and a cup of hot cocoa or tea in my hand.  It’s sappy Christmas moves on the Hallmark Channel or a good book.  It’s snuggles with the hubs or the kids or the dogs.  It’s a feeling of home that I indulge in much more during this time of year.  I try to open my heart and let it flow freely both in and out so that my gas gauge stays firmly on “full”.

I try NOT to romanticize this time of year or make it something it’s not.  I’ve said many times before that far from the actual drinking part of my drinking career, I was much more in love with the “idea” of drinking.  I felt very grown up when I drank.  In my mind’s eye I was very sophisticated and worldly when I swirled a glass to examine the “legs” of the wine.  I loved the intimacy of sharing a bottle of wine in a lovely restaurant.  I felt very “Scott & Zelda” hanging out in bars and taverns where they knew us on sight and kept the drinks coming.

Instead, I try to remember that after the first drink all the romance falls away and all that is left is a sappy drunk who doesn’t know when enough is enough.  A broke drunk because wine with “legs” is usually expensive.  An isolated and alone drunk because no one wants to stick around into the wee hours and continue to drink.  An ugly drunk because the slack jawed face in the mirror with slits where her beautiful green eyes used to be is her – unrecognizable even to herself.

{{shudder}}

I try to remember nights out at holiday parties when the kids were home with grandma watching those Christmas shows I should have been watching with them.  I try to remember our own holiday parties that left me slurring and unable to be there for those same children.  I try to remember making them cry because they hated seeing me like that.

That last one is the one that really gets to me…and keeps me sober.

I wish there was some kind of magic wand that would help us all enjoy the holiday season without the triggers and the longing and the pain associated with either being drunk or trying to stay sober.  I wish I could wriggle my nose or cast a spell but, like all good things in the world, nothing will work but good, honest, nose to the grindstone hard work.  Call it stubborness, or tenacity or commitment but at the end of the day, if it keeps you sober during the holiest time of the year…I’ll call it divine.

Namaste

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Victorious

Karen at Mended Musings wrote a beautiful and brave post yesterday that I was honored to reblog at her request.  As part of that reblog, I promised to write my own story of sexual abuse in a effort to shine even more light into the dark places that many, many MANY of us have and uncover those secrets that keep us sick and wondering what’s wrong with us.

There’s nothing wrong with us.  In fact, when we’re brave and tell our stories, we move from victims to victors.

My maternal grandmother was my salvation as a child.  I would go and visit her in the mountains of Western Maryland in the summers of my childhood.  There, with her, I felt that I was loved.  I was accepted.  I could exhale.  She was my biggest hero, my confidant, my true north. 

She was also my pimp.

When I was about 11 years old, my grandmother got herself a boyfriend.  He was about 20 years older, hideously ugly and smelled funny.  Kind of a mixture of pipe tobacco and old person.  I was happy she had a boyfriend but there was something, down deep…way deep in my little girl gut that made me want to stay as far away from him as possible.

Unfortunately, as a child, you don’t always get to do what you want to do…in fact, you do as you’re told.  I’m not sure exactly when it started happening but suddenly I was being told to accompany this man on errands that left me alone in a high rise elevator with him.  That’s when he began to insist that I give him a “kiss”.  He would drag me to him (he was a BIG man), deep throat tongue kiss me and fondle me until the elevator reached the bottom floor.

Oh how I hated that fucking elevator.

At first I protested these little excursions without telling anyone why.  I was tired.  I didn’t feel well.  I was sleepy.  Any excuse not to have to get into that elevator or worse, go to his apartment and be alone with him.  But when he started making my little sister come with us and started doing the same thing to her – I had to tell.  I tried pushing her aside but apparently one was not enough, he wanted both of us. 

So I told my mom who told me to, “Stay away from him.”  Gee thanks mom, that was  helpful.

I don’t remember how long the abuse lasted but I know it never progressed beyond kissing and fondling (although he tried to do other things but I always managed to not be alone with him too long) and that I was very happy when he finally died.

No one ever spoke about what happened.  No one ever checked in with me to see if, after I was told to stay away from him, it stopped (it didn’t) and because of that, there was something inside me that made me ashamed…like somehow it was my fault.  I thought maybe I did something to bring on the abuse and I felt very guilty that I couldn’t prevent it from happening to my sister – that I couldn’t protect her.  I carried that around with me for years.  Down deep – way deep.

I also told myself, over and over, “It was just kissing.  Some touching.  It really wasn’t a big deal…not really.  Right?”

Yeah…right.

When I got older, I shared my story with other women, consistently downplaying the impact it had and insisting that my abuse simply didn’t measure up to what happened to other children.  Lots of other children.  I discovered that this happens a lot more than anyone knows.  There are a lot of formerly little kids that are carrying this around in their souls…down deep…way deep.

It wasn’t until I got sober and started examining the very minutia of my life that it occurred to me that not only did my grandmother know, but that she actually may have offered me up as a sick kind of payment or sacrifice.  See, it was common knowledge that she only claimed this guy as a boyfriend because he helped her with her bills and gave her money.  Even at a young age I knew that was wrong but, because she was so important to me, I ignored my feelings about it and believed the excuses my mother made for her behavior.  In fact I loved her so much there was no way my brain would let me believe that she knew and didn’t protect me.  That maybe she didn’t love me as much as I loved her.  That maybe she used me.  I just couldn’t handle it and the abuse.

The brain has a way of hiding things that we can’t handle.  We surpress and then, if and when we’re healthier, the brain releases the surpressed emotions so that we can process and deal with them.  Let me give you an example.  I have an aversion to Donald Duck Pineapple Orange juice so strong that even thinking about how it tastes make me profoundly uncomfortable.  I know it’s some kind of surpressed event and I can’t be sure, but I’ll bet that one day I’ll connect this feeling with that man and what he did to my sister and I.  Maybe I’m wrong and it will be something to do with my grandmother.  Or maybe it’s completely unrelated – but it’s definitely surpressed and STRONG.

What I am sure of is that if I were to keep those things surpressed, or continue to tell myself that they were “no big deal” and minimize the impact, I would just get sicker and sicker until I imploded…

…or became a clinically depressed, slightly OCD, alcoholic control freak.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In any event, read Karen’s blog post again.  Utilize the links and resources she provided.  Talk about what happened.  Rid yourself of the shame.  Heal.  Be the victor.

Thank you Karen for opening this discussion.  For telling your story.  For helping others.

For being victorious.

Namaste

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments

The Secret Keepers

sherryd32148:

I am reblogging at the request of my blogging friend Karen at Mended Musings. Please read, she is brave and heroic.

My next post will tell my own story of sexual abuse. No more secrets…only healing.

Originally posted on Mended Musings:

secrets

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to ask you to share this post. Reblog it, share it on Facebook, tweet it. Someone out there needs to hear this message today. Even if you think you don’t know anyone who has been abused. Even if you don’t read the entire post.

About a month ago I was asked by Dawn at WTF words, thoughts, feelings to contribute an essay for an anthology that she and Joyelle are creating for parents who are survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse (learn more at https://www.facebook.com/TriggerPointsAnthology).

I submitted my essay but I also want to shine a bigger spotlight on this project because I fear that they may not get many submissions. Not because it’s not a worthy cause or because there aren’t enough people out there to contribute but because survivors of abuse are secret…

View original 1,196 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Christmas Leaf is Overturned

When I was a kid, we weren’t allow to even speak of Christmas until after my mother’s birthday – December 14th.  Since that was halfway through December, it made enjoying the holidays difficult.  I found I had to squelch down all my childlike wonder until 10 days prior to the BIG DAY because my mother wanted all eyes on her until after her special day.  I mean really, what self-respecting narcissist wants to share her birthday with the SON OF GOD!

I don’t know what I was thinking!

Now I decorate as soon as possible after Thanksgiving and I try to enjoy the entire season but I recently realized that I still tend to squelch those feelings. 

You know…stuff them down. 

No!  Can it be?  I STUFF down emotions!

You know, a sarcasm font would come in very handy right about now.

As soon as the Christmas commercials and decorations start after Halloween, there’s a voice in my head that says, “No!  I will not enjoy the holidays until…(whatever random date).”  As the excitement begins bubbling up I stuff it down and stuff it down until…well…it’s flat.  As a pancake.  With about as much flavor.  You know…before the syrup.

Then I get all wound up in the other thing my mother taught me about Christmas – that no matter what…it’s all about the presents and how much you spend on them.

Sigh.

I try and try not to do this but no matter what – it always seems to seep through.

The pinnacle and thus turning point for me was last year when, in spite of everything swirling around me, I struggled through the holiday season in a deep depression.  Part of it was chemical but a bigger part was all about stuffing everything down and then expecting it to resurrect itself when called upon and create a magical wonderland of holiday joy.

Yeah…not so much.

Then, as usual, when it didn’t happen I blamed myself.  I didn’t spend enough.  I didn’t bake enough.  I didn’t do CHRISTMAS enough. 

Bah…humbug.

Well not this year people.  I am making a conscious effort NOT to do these things for one more holiday season.  This holiday revelation came about after watching the marshmallow Target commercial with the little girl that looks a lot like my granddaughter did when she was about 7 years old.  I heard the familiar chords of the song “Marshmallow World” at the beginning of the commercial the day after Halloween and thought, “NO!!!  It’s too soon!”

Then I stopped.  And thought (amazing right).  And a big lightbulb appeared over my head and lit up…brightWhy is it too soon?  Who says I can’t enjoy this feeling RIGHT NOW?  Why should I wait until some arbitrary date?  There’s enough holiday cheer to last me through New Year’s even if I start in August, so why not on November 1st? 

The next time that commercial came on I sang along.  I let the feeling of holiday cheer fill me up and spill over.  I took a shower in that shit yo.

Then I decided that I was cutting a third of my holiday list because, quite frankly, we just don’t have the money this year (three kids in college = no cashola) and that if my friends couldn’t get on board than oh well.  I even emailed a couple of them to let them know and, surprise surprise, they WERE on board!  So, instead of exchanging gifts that we and our children do not need, we decided to spend time together instead.  Fucking genius right?

Next I decided that I wasn’t going to measure the thought or intent of the gifts I did buy by the price tag.  I really try hard not to do that but when it comes to the kids…I fall really short of my goals.  It never feels like I’ve given them enough which I’m completely aware is crazy but stuff that you’ve been doing your whole life is really hard to stop doing you know?  I’m going to sit down with all of them and explain what I’m feeling so that it’s out on the table and they know what to expect come Christmas morning. 

Because for real people?  It’s about how much we love each other as a family and not about how much we spend on one another.  Up until now that’s been easier said than done for me.  I’m hoping for easier done than said this year. 

So let the holiday celebrations begin!  I can set the table for Thanksgiving while singing Christmas carols!  I can Christmas shop and shop for my Thanksgiving turkey!  Bring on the commercials filled with heartfelt sentiment!  Let me see some Salvation Army kettles!  String the lights, lights and more lights!  Gingerbread lattes in red cups for everyone!

I’m ready and, for the first time in a very long time, I’m happy about it.

Namaste and dare I say, Happy Holidays!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Chicago Memories

Chicago Sign

I love the city of Chicago.  The first time I came here, I called home and told the hubs, “I think I could move here!”  It was April.  He told me to come back in February and then call him. 

I’ve been back many times and from the moment I get off the plane in O’Hare, it feels like I’m home.  I don’t even feel that way when I go to San Francisco and it tops my list as my most favorite city.  Chicago always comes in second…go figure.

So I’m back this week for work.  This time it’s just me, alone, in a hotel room the size of my walk-in closet with a bathroom the size of my pantry.  It’s very nice, just very, very small and very, very, VERY expensive.  No matter, I love it here.

Chicago Trump

Last night as I walked up Michigan Avenue and snapped these pics, I started thinking about my last trip here – about 10 or 11 years ago.  I was with my team and we were presenting a class.  I remember being more concerned with where we were going to drink than the class we were delivering.  There was a reception after the first day and when it was over, I went to my room and did some work and then came looking for more drinking buddies.  No one was there.  I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with me?  Why is it never enough?”  I also remember feeling very, very alone.

I sensed my boss knew what was going on because she specifically told me not to go out drinking with the class participants.  I remember thinking, “What is HER problem?  I’m a grown ass woman!”  She knew I was out of control and was just too polite to really call me out on it.  I likely would have imploded if she had actually said anything anyway.  Remembering those times brings a special kind of shame to my heart. 

Last night I sat with that shame.  I let it wash over me.  I let it drift from shame to guilt because, to paraphrase Brene’ Brown, guilt says I’ve done something wrong, shame says I’m wrong.  I’m sick to death of shame.  But guilt is part of me and I have to honor it in order to move past it.  So I did and by doing so, I was able to see this city I love with a new perspective. 

Wanting to soak up some local color, I stopped for dinner at a little dive of a neighborhood restaurant/bar in the basement of a building.  It was fairly early so the place was pretty much empty except for several “regulars” at the bar.  This was just the kind of place I would have LOVED in my drinking days.  As I waited for my deep dish pizza (so much for my eating plan), I watched and listened to the folks at the bar and, rather than feeling envious of their ability to drink, I just felt a deep sense of sadness.  Not for me…for them.  Why weren’t they on their way home to their families?  What would bring them into the basement to drink when the weather was so beautiful?  Why not get a jump on traffic or rush hour?

As I listened to their conversation (it wasn’t hard…you know how loud we get when we drink), it became even sadder to me.  They spoke of kids and wives and husbands.  They discussed Halloween and parties and weekends.  Why were they wasting time in this dark (and cozy I have to admit) place instead of making their way home? 

The longer I sat the more they drank.  No one else came in.  The bartender knew each by name and brought their drinks before they asked.  A familiar pattern to me.  After I finished my meal I overtipped the waitress and made my way out of there, silently bidding goodbye to the locals.

And thanking God that I was no longer one of them.

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 14 Comments

Blessings and Miracles

There was a time in my life when I didn’t think very highly of the mental health profession.  Let’s face it, I held the belief that they were all a bunch of wackos whose main role in life was to screw with people’s minds and pump them full of drugs.  I thought all psychiatrists were nuttier than the average fruitcake and that counselors and psychologists weren’t worth the paper on which their degrees were printed.

To be fair, I was raised in a house FULL of fruitcakes who spent most of their time lying to, using and manipulating anyone who tried in vain to help them.  To them, all of their issues were the fault of others which included any mental health professionals to whom they were assigned, voluntarily or otherwise.  Since those poor souls were either denying them the drugs or the answers they wanted, they were ineffective quacks who should have their credentials snatched immediately if not sooner.

Let me state for the record, I was (gulp) wro…, um…not correct.  At least not entirely.  I still think the mental health system has a long way to go to meet the needs of the suffering.  From my experience, it’s the system that wants to either pump people full of drugs or send them to overworked and underpaid counselors without the proper training to meet the rapidly growing needs of society.

Please don’t misunderstand, I have personally met some whack job mental health people over the years whose offices I’ve left confused, disappointed and shaking my head in dismay.  But, to be fair, I’ve also met whacked out medical doctors, priests (lots of those), teachers, grocery store clerks and bank tellers.  I once had a creepy gynecologist who I couldn’t wait to get away from.  I’ve had hairdressers that chopped my hair making me wish I was bald and a masseuse once at Elizabeth Arden Salons that creeped me out so bad I complained to management.  But none of these had me telling anyone and everyone that would listen that the entire profession of massage therapists, medical doctors and hairdressers were all batshit crazy.  No – that particular classification was reserved only for shrinks and their brethren.

And then I became clinically depressed.

Don’t you love God’s sense of humor?  I sure do.

Over the last 20 years I’ve been through many psychiatrists and therapists as I’ve navigated this complicated condition.  I’ve learned to overcome prejudice and stigma while simultaneously opening my own mind to the possibility of an excellent relationship with those on the other side of the couch.  It’s been extremely humbling and very hard work but it’s also made me a more compassionate and empathetic human.  Definitely a blessing.

I now find myself in a relationship with a therapist that I’ve come to not only like, but to trust.  I like lots of people.  I trust very few.  I know part of the reason I’m feeling so good about this is because I was ready to hear what he had to say and do the work required to make myself well, but it’s also because he’s very good at his job and he’s exactly the personality type that I needed.  God and the Universe knew that it would take a very special combination of efforts to bring me to a point where I was ready to receive the message.  Another blessing.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 20 years is that this work is required.  For the last 19.5 years it was because unless I took care of myself, my children were going to suffer.  Long time readers of this blog can tell you that shit don’t fly in my world.  My family is worth anything and everything I have to do to create an atmosphere of loving kindness. Besides…it’s not their fault mama’s a nutcase.  In fact, my own depression allowed me to recognize it in one of my children at a very young age and allow him to avoid a lot of heartache and difficulty.  More blessings.

In the last few months however, I’ve also learned that I’m worth the work required just because I breathe.  God created me and, I imagine, as my Father it probably made Him very sad to know how little I thought of myself up until this point.  In fact, it probably pisses Him off – if God can even get pissed off that is.

I’ve now come to the realization that my therapy time is my sacred space.  That hour belongs to me and me alone and what’s said in that room is strictly between me and JP.  If I choose to share it then I share it.  If I choose to keep it to myself that’s okay as well.  It’s one of the few places in my world where I don’t feel judged or like I’m going to make a mistake.  When I’m in that space I don’t feel fat, or ugly, or wrong, or clumsy or any of the things I’ve been carrying around most of my life.  I feel accepted and safe and like I’m worth the effort.

That’s not a blessing people…that’s a fucking miracle.

Namaste

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments