Tag Archives: getting older

Happeh Happeh Happeh (Issue No. 3)

11 Sep

As a continuation of my little research project into happiness and fulfillment, here are the things I’ve identified that need improvement:

Things I’d like to improve:

  1. Relationships (love/family/friends)
  2. Energy level
  3. Finances
  4. Personal Satisfaction

The game plan: How do I plan to make these things better? I’m glad you asked.

Relationships

  • Communication: I won’t wait for or depend on others to initiate interaction.
  • Remember birthdays: I am really terrible about this, and I feel really bad about it. At the beginning of each month I am going to buy.make cards for everyone close to me with a birthday that month and send them out immediately. Goodbye procrastination!
  • Call, skype, write or email more often.
  • Be honest: if there are people in my life that just drag me down or do not contribute something positive to my life, I will not continue to waste my energy on them.
  • Forgiveness: If someone has done something that hurt me, real or perceived, I will let it go. It isn’t healthy or productive to hold onto grudges.
  • Connect: I want to find my long lost sister that I’ve never met. I want to rebuild my relationship with my little brother and sister and strengthen my ties to my big brother and sister. We are such a complicated family, with many obstacles, but with all the things I’ve listed above, I’m optimistic that it can be done.

Communication specific to my love relationship:

  • I will give him a break. He’s trying really hard.
  • I won’t say “I’m fine” if I’m in fact not. If I don’t want to talk about it, that’s what I’ll say.
  • I will let go of the past. It’s over. I need to either get over it and move on, or not get over it and end the relationship…if it’s that serious.

Energy level

  • Improve sleep: Because of my health, there are some things that affect my sleep that are beyond my control. Here are some of the things I can control:
    • Embrace the darkness: It’s amazing how just a small bit of light can disturb sleep. I’m putting up black out curtains and getting rid of any glowing lights from chargers and other gadgets.
    • Be active during the day: Duh.
    • Eat dinner at a reasonable time: 9 o’clock does not fit this criteria. Let’s shoot for 7-7:30 ish.
    • Read more, TV less. This isn’t really that big of an issue because we traded cable TV for a gym membership, but we can still do a little better. TV is not conducive to sleep, as a matter of fact, it’s usually to blame for nights I stay up late. (Like Monday night football that starts at 9:15. LOL)
    • Journal/Blog/Sketch: I need to get all of those thoughts and great ideas out of my head so my mind can rest.
  • Meditation: I’m a skeptic when it comes to “new age” type ideas. However, I gave this an honest shot for a while and was amazed at how well it worked to quiet my mind and relieve stress and anxiety. If for no other reason, I’m doing it to shut my brain up. I’ve got thoughts a mile a minute and they never stop, not even when I’m not paying attention to what I’m thinking about. I am shooting for 30 minutes a day, at minimum Monday through Friday.
  • Exercise: This is probably key to fixing many of my personal issues, so don’t be surprised to see this one a few times.
  • Eat better: Obviously.
    • Limit eating out. I will be cutting out places like Mc Donalds completely. It makes me sick to my stomach anyway.
    • Cook dinner at home, from scratch as much as possible.
    • Bring lunch to work whenever possible.
    • Make/eat more vegetables.
    • Make more fruit smoothies.
  • Clear out the clutter: Unworn clothing, unused miscellany and trinkets…I’ll be getting rid of them or finding a way to properly store it so it’s not lingering all over the house.
    • Be honest: Am I really going to use this?
    • Sentimental items are okay to keep as long as it’s properly displayed or stored.
  • Finish projects: All those nagging loose ends hanging around drain my energy and actually keeps me from getting to work on them. It’s a vicious cycle. I plan on keeping a list of current and future projects to be able to visualize what I have on my plate, so to speak.

Finances: Money, or more specifically lack of, is a monumental source of stress and general unhappiness. The issue isn’t strictly a matter of not making enough money to make ends meet, it’s a combination of that and not spending as wisely as we should. Getting a grip on income and expenditures would relieve a lot of this stress.

  • Make a budget: List all expenditures and income.
    • Take cash out at the bank for all small expenditures like gas, etc.
    • Set up bills to be paid through the bank’s bill pay to ensure they’re paid on time.
  • Stick to the budget: Use only the cash allowed for any miscellaneous spending.

Personal Satisfaction: There are a lot of things that I can do or change to increase my self-esteem or make me feel better about who I am or how I’m living my life. I’ve made a good start, making forward progress with this over the last couple years. However, I’m a long way off from where I’d like to be. Some of these items overlap or repeat, but that’s because they’re important.

  • Figure out what my business is, and start it. Whether it’s on Etsy or even working with someone that sells on consignment, this needs to happen. I need to define what my business will encompass, build a plan, buy supplies, start production and get my stuff out in the world. Oh, and I need business cards because everyone knows you’re not legit business person without a business card.
  • Get right with my spiritual life. I’m Catholic and always have been. I’ve fallen off the wagon like most people do from time to time, not because I don’t believe anymore, but I lose sight of my priorities. Sitting in mass, my heart feels full and find myself at times stifling back tears of joy. I can’t help feeling that this is where I’m meant to be.  I would like to start a family in the fairly near future, and I want my children to grow up with faith and the knowledge of God’s love and how we are not just arbitrary beings with no purpose. I want to pass along the faith that my mother passed on to me, because it is a beautiful thing. I’ve begun confirmation classes to kick off my journey to re-acquaintance with the Good Lord.
  • Finish projects: A repeater. All those quasi-finished project lying around make it hard to view myself as a success. Small victories will help with this for sure.
  • Get back to school ASAP. Seriously. Even if it’s just a random class here or there.
  • Get into shape! I need exercise like a pizza needs cheese. My clothes don’t fit as well as they should and I just get depressed when I look in the mirror. I’m not too far off, but enough that I’ve disappointed myself.
  • Finish organizing my music on iTunes. Sounds stupid I know, but I’m so OCD that having duplicate songs and mislabeled music is really irritating.
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Happeh Happeh Happeh (Issue No. 2)

10 Sep

I recently read Juicy Joy by Lisa McCourt and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Both excellent reads on the subject of happiness, I highly recommend them. They’ve given me a bit more focus in my life, as I continue my quest for a life that thrills me. Even though I am happier than I have been in a very long time, I know that there are always thing that can be done better. Just like there’s always room for Jello, there is also always room for improvement. SO…I’m beginning this research project, inspired by these books, as a quest to pin point the little things that might occasionally cause a little strife, and decide how to change them.

As I start this project, I am taking some time to identify some important lessons I’ve learned over the years. I am also going to identify  aspects of my life that need improvement, as well as ways that I can actually implement these improvements.

First step, what have I learned so far:

  1. I am in total control of the way I feel, the way I view myself, and the way I react to certain situations or events.
  • I make the decision to give that power/control away each time someone/thing causes me to feel unhappy or bad about myself.
  • I have the power to change the way I perceive things and in doing so, I have the power to  change the way they affect me.

       2.     Harboring hate or negative feelings doesn’t hurt anyone but myself.

  • Hatred and negativity are not constructive. They won’t change anyone’s behavior. Allowing these feelings and types of thoughts is another way of giving your power away.

       3.     I can’t control everything.

  • I can’t force anyone to see or do things my way. I need to accept that even though it would be nice for everything to be done exactly as I would have done, I am much less stressed and much happier just accepting that some people thing and do things differently.

       4.     Life isn’t about finding comfort and sticking with it.

  • Adventures, no matter how big or small, are the key to a happy life.

       5.     Take risks.

  • You never know how something is going to turn out. But if you take a risk, at least you won’t be left wondering if maybe it could’ve been something really great.

       6.     Travel as often as you can.

  • This one is directly related to adventures.
  • What good is that PTO doing you if you’re not taking it?
  • It gets more and more difficult to travel (for most) as we get older. Obligations, careers, children…these things make traveling more complicated. If I could do it over, I would have tried a semester (or two) of college abroad. Unfortunately, the ship has sailed on that one. So instead, I promise myself I will make the extra effort to get away as often as I can.

       7.     Take good care of your skin, and for the love of everything good, don’t touch your face! (unless you’re washing/moisturizing)

  • Dirty hands on your face = zits. Seriously. Even the natural oils on your hands can cause issues. So just keep your hands away from that pretty mug.
  • Forget spending a ton of money on injections, peels, and lifts. Just take care of your skin. Try not to smoke, take it easy on the boozing (drink water more often) and get your beauty rest. You’d be amazed at how big of a difference these changes will make in your appearance. Also, make sure you wash off your makeup before bed time and use moisturizer. If you throw in an occasional scrub or mask, all the better.

       8.     Forgiveness isn’t easy.

  • It’s real hard to let someone who did you wrong off the hook, so to speak. But instead of looking at forgiveness as absolving the person of their actions, try looking at it as a gift you’re giving yourself (getting rid of negative emotional baggage and finally allowing people who belong in your past stay in the past)

       9.     Be yourself, no matter what.

  • Don’t try to change who you are to fit someone’s expectations. You weren’t created to hold back your gifts just because it makes someone else uncomfortable. You were made to pass your gifts along.

       10.    Money isn’t everything.

  • True, money does make the world go round. But like I mentioned a minute ago about what good is that PTO doing you if you’re not taking it…the same goes with money. I’m not going to say it isn’t prudent to build up an emergency fund, to have a cushion in the event you lose your job. It is. And I highly recommend it, if you can. But do you really need a massive savings account if its acquired at the expense of your personal life? Everyone tells us to save now so we don’t have to worry about expenses when we retire. Who says we’re going to make it that long? Not to sound morbid, but tomorrow is a gift, not a promise. Great, your next of kin will be most appreciative enjoying the duckets you stowed away, working your ass off, and sacrificing your personal time for. All I’m saying is don’t put money and work above your happiness. I’ve never heard of anyone saying, “Gee, I really wish I would have worked more”.

Happeh Happeh Happeh (Issue No. 1)

10 Sep

The purpose of todays post and pretty much all my posts is to get you thinking. I want you to think about your life: the way you’re living it and what you’re doing to pursue happiness. Are the choices you’re making made because they will result in happiness or are they made out of convenience? It’s easy to keep your head down and move forward without any real scrutiny. It’s certainly easier to cope with unhappiness or lack of fulfillment when you’re not thinking about it. Wake up!  It’s time to take control of the wheel, my friends. Sure, sometimes heading out on a road trip without a map is exciting. It’s called adventure. But even a spontaneous trip starts with a general idea of what you wanna see or what you wanna do. There’s a general theme driving the adventure, be it the beach, national parks, or who can find the most bizarre landmark. The general theme driving your life should be happiness. Going through life complacent, not considering where you’re headed or what you’re after is the fastest way to wake up at (insert age here) with a slew of regrets. You need to think. Incidently, it’s the whole purpose behind being blessed with the capacity to reason.

Speaking of reasoning, have you ever stopped and taken inventory of what brings you happiness? If you haven’t, I highly suggest that you do, and do it often. The things that bring happiness change regularly, just like everything else in life. Sometimes a long weekend partying with good friends is what makes your heart smile. Other times, it’s the satisfaction of finally finishing that painting that you started in high school that you’ve been meaning to get to for a dozen or so years that does it for you. If you’re not constantly considering what makes you happy, you’ll miss those changes and find yourself chasing hollow dreams, winding up unfulfilled.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: if you don’t like something in your life, change it. Sure, that’s a simplified statement, and certainly easier said than done, but at the same time, it is literally that simple. It’s a matter of thinking about your  life and the situation situation you find yourself in and deciding it’s not what you want. You need to embrace the fact that your happiness is in your own hands, and is often just a decision (albeit sometimes a difficult decision) away.

To illustrate this point, I’ll use myself as opposed to embarrassing someone I know or lying to you good people by making up a fake story. I was the same person from just before I turned 19 until our divorce at age 27. The idea of having children with him terrified me. Buying a home with him terrified me. A normal person would say to them self “hey self, these events are pretty fundamental to marriage, if they scare you, maybe this isn’t the person for you”.  I didn’t trust my instincts about the lies or the cheating. I continued on unhappy, my anger and resentment mounting for years. I blamed him for the way I felt. I really felt, down to my shoes, that he was the sole person to blame. And he was to blame. To do the kinds of things he did while we were together is unacceptable without a doubt. But who’s the girl with two thumbs and stuck around through it all? That’s right, this girl. Ultimately, I was the only one that can be held to answer for my profound unhappiness. I was lost. I had given so much to support his dreams that I forgot who I was as an individual. I turned my back on the things that truly brought happiness to my life and lost myself. In my defense, and I feel like this is a big obstacle for many people which is why I’m airing out this laundry, a divorce would mean my life would be changed so completely, it’d be unrecognizable. We’d have to figure out what to do with all our stuff, the house would need to be disposed of, I’d have to get a new job, and probably give up my medical benefits (which, with RA, is beyond a huge deal) because we worked at the same place, not to mention climatize myself to a single  (and much smaller income). I am happy to report that though I was lost, now I am found. Mind you, it took some catastrophically major events to open my eyes. It was one of the scariest decisions I ever made, but big pay offs rarely come easily.

My intent is to open your eyes. Don’t let it come down to a life altering or tragic event that finally wakes you up and makes you realize that happiness cannot wait. It will not. It’ll pass you by like all those cactuses  on the drive to Vegas. No one can stop the car but you.

Happy Birthday, W_lt_r…

18 Sep

You might be curious as to why I didn’t completely spell the name in the title of this post. Walter is my father. He was in the Navy for 20 years and when he’d write me a letter, he always signed it W_lt_r (Daddy). He left letters out because I wasn’t allowed to call him Walter, only Daddy. It was one of his little ways of being funny, I suppose. It always made me smile.

Today is my Daddy’s birthday. According to his initial prognosis, he should still be alive for me to make him German chocolate cupcakes.

Unfortunately, he’s not. Instead, I’m sitting in bed 1,500 miles away from home and his grave, thinking about how much I miss him. I’m thinking about how wonderful the last birthday we spent together was. I’m thinking about how badly I wish that I could have that day back.

Many days have passed since that last birthday. I’ve grown and learned a lot about life, and I’ve struggled with the sadness and depression that comes with loss and change. I’ve been striving every day to live my life in a way that would make him proud. Unfortunately, the way I celebrated his birthday last year would not have met that particular goal. I was by myself at a bar, falling to pieces. It’d been a long, long time since I had felt that alone.

I didn’t make him any cupcakes this year. I didn’t visit his grave to leave him a card and Fosters tall boy. I am home, away from home, but I don’t feel so alone. There won’t be any drinking tonight. Though there have been some tears and probably more to come, I am not falling apart today. I am grateful for that. I am thankful to have someone here who loves me, and does his best to  hold me together. Maybe it’s a gift from my Dad? A way to ease the moving on? I don’t know, but thank you either way.

Here’s to you Daddy. I hope you’re smiling down from Heaven on all the good changes I’ve made in my life. I miss you every day.

P.S. Tell Uncle Peter I say hi.

Daddy’s last birthday – 56 years old

It Might Have His Spirit, But This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Country…

18 Apr

I know that this must be said by every generation…but, what the heck happened to music? Where did the soul go? I came across this meme (don’t ask me why it’s called that, because I don’t know…and more importantly, I just don’t care enough to find out why.) and I really think that it fits this enigma perfectly.

This meme got me thinking about what really did happen to music. I wish I knew what exactly happened that made music like Frank Sinatra, Bad Religion, or Earth Wind and Fire sang, obsolete. When I think about music, I think about one of my favorite genres: country.

I know more than a handful of people who cringe at the idea of listening to Garth Brooks. But country’s growing popularity is evidenced by hordes of not just the older people, but also the younger crowd that clog the dance floors at my local honky-tonk. (honky-tonk=country bar)

Country music as a genre has evolved over time. It’s taken cues from societal changes and has been able to adapt without losing is original spirit. Country music has stayed true to its roots without becoming a thing of the past. The roots I’m referring to is the subject matter that songs are written about. Country songs are written about real life, things almost all of us as humans can relate to.

Granted, there are other genres of music that share the same roots. But in comparison, I can’t think of one variety that has shown the kind of successful evolution as country music. Country music is one of the last popular genres left that sings about things that actually matter, things that make us feel something. Someone lie to you? There’s a song about that (listen to You Lie by The Band Perry). Are you in love? Got that covered too (listen to Honey Bee by Blake Shelton). Feel like kicking back and saying screw the world? You’re covered. (listen to Eric Church sing Smoke a Little Smoke) Thinking about a one-night stand? You bet you’re tookus there’s a few about that too (listen to Wanna Take You Home by Gloriana). Sure it’s nice to go out every once in a while, dancing to some mindless beat. But have you actually listened to the lyrics of most pop music these days? It’s the musical equivalent of junk food. The fact is, people can relate to what most country music is about. People want  to listen to music that makes them feel something, other than some guy trying to rub up against you.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite things about country music and going to a honky-tonk is not feeling like a piece of meat at the market. Men ask women to dance. I’m talking actual partner dancing none of that bump & grind crap. Women don’t have to worry about getting felt up just because they said yes to dancing with someone. Country bars are some of the last places where men behave more like gentlemen and treat women respectfully, I suppose it’s just the kind of environment country music breeds.  There’s rarely anyone being kicked out for fighting. They don’t pat you down for weapons or drugs at the door…which is nice.

The bottom line is this, people want music that means something more than how much money you make, what stupid crap you buy, how many people you’ve iced or how many women you’ve slept with. Sometimes you just get burned out on fast food. You start craving a home cooked meal because it feeds your body and your soul. This is why country music has become so popular. Some of us are just tired of junk food. What do you think?

So Fresh and So Fresh and So Clean Clean….(ain’t nobody as dope as me)

4 Apr

I know it’s Wednesday and you all must be wondering where this week’s Wreck is. Well, I’m interrupting my previously scheduled Wreck in celebration of a very special occasion.

It happens to be Lent. It is the commemoration of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, being tempted by Satan. For us, it is the season of sacrifice, charity, fasting, atonement and forgiveness. Lent gives us a fresh start, spiritually, and is the foundation for positive growth. “Cleaning” and “de-cluttering” the soul and spirit is not always easy. It can be painful, confronting your past transgressions and mistakes. Airing out those skeletons can come with consequences. There are times that even with forgiveness, relationships cannot be saved once the truth is brought to light. I think this is one of the hardest parts of the season. I also know, however, that without this season of atonement and forgiveness, we cannot grow and become the happy people that we are meant to be.

I’ve thought for a long time that life has a funny way of placing things, situations or people in your path at the exact moment you need them. Whether it’s an opportunity to exercise your ability to forgive, or to love, or maybe it’s an opportunity to understand what it really means to have faith and perseverance–it’s a message meant to help you grow. The reason I mention this is because I’ve just been reading a manuscript for a book called Through the Eyes of Another by Karen Noe. I will be posting a review for the book in the coming weeks, but for now, the premise of the book is to receive your “Life Review” before making your transition from this world to the next  (or whatever you believe lies after life) by writing letters. Though the topic might seem strange and arbitrary, it turned out to be a very inspiring book. It encourages the reader to write letters to various family and  loved ones, telling them why and how much you care about them, and acknowledge the things that you are sorry about, ways you’ve hurt them or caused pain. The next part is apologizing for the things that you’ve done. The purpose of these letters, more than anything are meant for emotional and spiritual healing. In my opinion, I can’t think of anything better that could have been put in my path to bring my attention to the fact that, while I have not had soda like I promised on Ash Wednesday, I have kind of neglected the whole contrition and atonement part of Lent.

Deep down, we all know deep down that these letters do need to be written or these conversations need to be had. We don’t reach out to those we love and those who love us to tell them how much they mean to us. We don’t tell people enough that we are blessed to have them in our lives. We don’t see clearly how our actions have caused hurt or pain in other lives. We certainly don’t always apologize for causing that hurt. God has given us this season as an opportunity to become better people, to be a little more like his Son. It’s not about Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday,  Easter Sunday, hardboiled eggs or even delicious ham. It’s about His only Son sacrificing his own purely innocent life for us sinners to have life eternal. All that’s requested of us is to live our lives with love, humility, honesty. He doesn’t even care that we all commit sins daily. Contrition and repentance is the key. Doesn’t sound like such a hard thing to do. Right?

Tomorrow isn’t going to be a better day to let those people in your life know that you love them. Next week could very well be too late to make amends with that friend you’ve neglected. Today is the day. Make it one that your Father can be proud of.

 

Tired of trying, sick of crying. I know I’ve been smiling, but inside I’m dying…

1 Feb

Sound familiar? If it does, we need to talk. Get ready because this is gonna be a doozy of a personal post. (a reeeeeeally long one.)

Depression isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It lurks in the darkness of our soul, eating away at our hearts, consuming our will to continue searching for happiness. It’s an invisible ailment that many experience, but few understand. For some, it’s a fast and dramatic response to an event such as the death of a loved one, or a major failure of some sort. But many times, depression has no clear cut cause; there’s no singular traumatic event that starts the seamless progression from disappointment to sadness to depression to hopelessness.  Sometimes, the advancement is so slow and subtle; it goes unrecognized by even the person experiencing it. And therein lies the problem. How can you tell someone that something is wrong, when you yourself don’t know or can’t explain what it is? I may be alone in my stubbornness, but I find it difficult to admit to someone, let alone to myself, that there IS something wrong when I don’t even know what IT is. How am I supposed to ask for help, when I don’t even know what I need?

What we need to do is talk. We need to identify and admit the fact that depression is not only a mental problem. It is a condition that reaches far beyond just being sad. It can affect your appearance, drain you of energy, kill your appetite, and kill your social life, among many other things. If we just continue to hide or ignore that depression is a physical condition as much as a mental one, we’ll just continue to sink lower and lower. We also need to stop surrounding ourselves with people that only add to the sickness. We all know drama mongers. They peddle their crazy to anyone and everyone that will listen. I’m here to tell you, when crazy comes knocking, you don’t have to answer the door.

Depression never affected me as a child or teen. So you can imagine my surprise and serious denial when it hit me in adulthood. Come to find out, I have a predisposition to suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts/tendencies. My mother attempted to end her life as a teenager. My cousin committed suicide when I was in high school. My paternal grandmother committed suicide when my father was a teenager. I have done some research and have found that my Austrian/German decent makes me more likely to make an attempt on my life. For some reason, people from these countries have a high rate of suicide and depression. It’d be easy to look at the statistics and family history and use it as an excuse. I could put the blame on genetics. Who in the world would argue with science and facts?

The problem with accepting that you have a predilection, especially a biological one, for something, is that we often use that as an excuse for giving into it. We let go of our power to the thought that we are destined to be this or suffer from that. Instead of telling ourselves, “yes, I am more susceptible to (insert condition here), but I have the power to avoid it”, we tell ourselves “I am more susceptible to (insert condition here); I don’t have any control in it”. We give the blame away to our genetics (or whatever variable) and in doing so, we give away our power to make real and positive changes in our lives. It’s this negative thinking that perpetuates depression, not our genes. If you think you’re worthless, then guess what? Perception is reality. The amazing thing is that you have the ability to change your perception, and in turn, change reality.

Here comes story time. I’ve talked a little about my father’s death; I think I’ve even mentioned the death of my grandma. But, to illustrate my point a little better, I’m going to tell you the whole story…the big points, anyway….

I met my ex a week before I turned 19. We were married two and a half years later. Even though I was young, I gave it everything I had, and then a little more. But getting little in return, I started to give up. I’d been unhappy for a very long time, and I was tired of being used, tired of being lied to, and tired of waiting. I blamed my husband for the way I felt. I resented him for everything I gave up to support his goals and dreams. I felt worthless because nothing I did for him was ever enough for him to value me as I once thought I’d deserved. Despite the way I felt about the way my marriage was going, we decided at one point that we were going to try to start a family. Wanting to be sure I was healthy enough for a pregnancy, I consulted my doctors. My rheumatologist cautioned me against it, saying that even if the inflammation in my feet from my rheumatoid arthritis was under control (at this point, it was not); I would almost certainly spend at least my third trimester on bed rest. I was 25 years old, and my doctor was telling me I shouldn’t try to have kids? I’m 25 years old; I should be able to get knocked up without the “ok” from a doctor…right?

Already unhappy with where my life was at the time, I received a phone call that would put me over the edge. I left for work one morning, and on the drive, I got a phone call from my supervisor’s boss telling me I was to report to him before I began my shift. My heart sank. I knew this was bad news, I thought I’d be fired, though I had no idea for what. I stood at his desk and he informed me I was being put on administrative leave and ordered me to surrender my badge. On my drive home that morning, my thoughts raced. I had decided that when I arrived home, I was going to take every pill in my bottle of Vicodin, and anything else I had. I got home, went upstairs, grabbed the bottle and popped the first pill in my mouth. I tried to swallow it. I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn’t go down. This was the beginning of what my ex and most everyone else would see as my decline. The truth is, all those little things with my marriage, the lies, the resentment, my health…that was the real beginning, but it was invisible. It wasn’t even until about a year or two before this incident that I had even noticed it myself.

The sad part about that first pill is that not being able to swallow it had very little, if anything, to do with how I valued my life. I never thought, “I can’t do this because I have so much to live for, so many things I still want to do.” As I tried to swallow that pill, I thought about my parents, the tears, them thinking that they failed at something because they weren’t able to save me. I thought about my nieces. I thought about being thought of as too weak to handle what God was dishing out to me. I even thought about my poor pup. I didn’t want to hurt the people I loved. I told my ex what had happened, and asked him to take all my medications and hide them from me. I called my doctor and got an appointment with a shrink who referred me to a program that literally saved my life.

Because of my suicidal thoughts and my attempt, though failed, my only choices were being committed to a mental facility or the Intensive Outpatient Program, or IOP. I chose IOP. Though I am not and never have been an advocate for “group therapy”, I have to say, it worked. After two weeks of talking about the things I’ve been through, how I feel, listening to others, discovering that although the causes of what brought us all to that room were very different, we were all feeling very similarly. I learned that I am not something that is broken and needs fixing. I learned some very important coping skills and started to re-learn simple truths about myself that would ultimately hold the pieces of my heart together when I thought it would fall apart.

The next couple months brought my grand mother’s decline. She was constantly in and out of the hospital. My family, especially my aunt, who was my grandma’s primary caretaker, struggled with the burden of dealing with the impending loss and the day to day wear that caring for stricken loved ones brings about. Finally, we had a family meeting with the doctors who informed us of our choices. My aunt was not ready to let go. She wanted to believe that her mother wanted to keep fighting. Eventually, we all agreed that she should be put on home hospice care.

The night my grandma died, I went out with my cousins. I got drunker than I’d ever been, at that point. I fell apart. I’d never cried harder or for such a long time. Her funeral was the most beautiful service I’d ever been to. (I’ve been to quite a few) She was buried next to my grandpa, who’d passed away a few years earlier. At the graveside service, someone had booked a mariachi band to play songs that my grandpa used to sing to his wife. It was amazing.

The next day, my phone rang. It was my dad, and he was telling me that he has cancer. Stage 4 cancer to boot. For those who aren’t familiar with cancer, stage 4 means that the cancer is very advanced and has metastasized to other organ(s). In the subsequent months, I flew back and forth from my home in southern California to northern Washington, when my father lived. In the midst of this, I was ultimately fired from my job. Meanwhile, I helped re-model the house, I cooked, I cleaned, I took my father to many of his appointments. He had a prognosis of 2 years. The cancer took him in 3 months.

Two weeks before he died, I decided to make a book for my dad. I wanted to have him write down stories about himself, about growing up, about life. I had so many questions to ask him. I worked hard on that book, trying to make it perfect. Unfortunately, by the time I was done with it, he was no longer speaking, and barely moving. I ended up with a very beautiful, but very empty book.

If you’ve noticed anything in my posts, you’ve probably noticed my propensity to relating my life to music. Today is no different. As it turns out, there is a line from a Social Distortion song that is cold hard fact. Mike Ness sings, “Reach for the sky ’cause tomorrow may never come” (By the way, that song is called Reach for the Sky.) I decided that this empty book was not going to be the story of my life.  Losing my father so quickly prompted me (after a great deal of wallowing in grief and self-pity) to evaluate my life and the way I was living it.

The fact is that it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to put the blame for our disappointments and misery on everything and everyone around us. What’s not easy is taking a look in the mirror and realize that we are the only thing standing between us and bliss. It’s not easy taking responsibility for our unhappiness and depression. The way I felt about my life and my marriage was no one’s fault but my own. As soon as I took ownership of that fact, I got my power back.  I decided that I can’t wait for happiness. It’s not just going to walk up to me one day on the street. I have to actively seek it. My book will not be blank, it’s going to be filled with all the awesome things I am going to do, all the adventures I’m going to take on. I’ve been doing all the things that made me who I am. I’ve been doing all the things that make me happy, all the way down to my shoes.

I also began to understand that everything, and I mean everything, happens for a reason. If I had not been married to my ex, I would not have come to understand how little I actually loved myself. If I had not ended up with rheumatoid arthritis, I probably would have ended up with children with a man that I did not love, a man who didn’t truly love me. My suicide attempt led to me getting the help I really needed. If I hadn’t gone though the Intensive Outpatient Program, I wouldn’t have learned the tools that would later keep me from spinning out of control with the subsequent tragedies of losing my grandmother and my father. If I hadn’t been put on administrative leave, I would not have been able to spend so much time with my father before he passed away. If my father hadn’t been taken so swiftly, I probably would not have had the courage to finally take my life into my own hands. I would have continued being miserable, and blaming my ex for it. Like I said, perception is reality. My reality is a happy one, because I perceive it to be.

While I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time, I still continue to struggle with depression. I’m not going to lie. There are days that I feel just like vanilla ice cream: white, plain, nothing special. But then, I Googled vanilla, and I learned that vanilla is actually one of the most complex flavors on the planet (another scientific fact). So, while I may just be feeling like vanilla, I am actually quite special. This gives me hope that though I’ve been battered by storms, I’m not quite destroyed. Little by little, I begin to strengthen and bloom again.

 

 

If you want something done right…

28 Dec

I’ve lived most of my life by that stupid old saying,”if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” Group projects in school, planning a wedding, taking care of finances, doing laundry…I’ve always taken control and gotten things done on my own. Obsessive compulsiveness aside, I’ve always felt a fear in putting my fate, so to speak, in someone else’s hands.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be a 28 year old woman, who is newly divorced and just trying to get back on her feet. I’ve spent almost the last decade in a cock-eyed “partnership” where I took care of everything. Sure, I’ve never brought home the bulk of the bacon. But I sure as hell put it in a pan and cooked it. Let me tell you, I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling like I’m rowing away in a boat while everyone else is sitting on their oars, soaking in the sunset.

The last time I can remember having a real birthday party that I didn’t have to put together was 13 years ago. When I was married, I hoped-year after year-that the person I was with would get this act together and pull through for me. I don’t particularly enjoy birthday presents. There are few things that can be bought that can put a smile on my face like reading some sweet words in a letter or card, knowing someone took a few minutes out of their day to reflect on how much I mean to them.  Some of those years I was married, I was lucky to get a card that was on time and had anything more than “Love, so-and-so” written inside of it. I reverted my thinking back to that saying again. Apparently, if I want to do something special for my birthday, I have to plan it myself. And that’s what I’ve done. Year after year.

I’ve come to believe that wanting someone to fuss over me, to spoil me on the anniversary of my birth, is not only an impossiblity, but also selfish. How stupid of me to think that I could possibly be important enough to someone for them to take five minutes to look up a bakery, order a cake, call my favorite restaurant and make a reservation. Oh, and you think your friends and family should be invited to celebrate? Hogwash. That’s some serious pie-in-the-sky day-dreaming you’re doing there, sister. Snap out of it.

Today, I’m snapping out of it. Today, I say, no, I won’t do it myself. And if I do have to plan my own birthday celebration, don’t expect to be a part of it. It’s going to be a completely self-serving, selfish, spoil-myself-a-thon. While I’m at it, if someone wants to fold my laundry, I’m going to let them do it. I don’t care if the towels are folded wrong. If someone offers to take a piece of a project off my hands, I’m going to fight my OCD and say, “yes, that would be delightful.”

Whoever said, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself” was a lunatic with a sick hankering for self-punishment.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ME.

What was I talking about, again?

8 Dec

Before I begin, let me give a definition of a bird walk:

A bird walk is when someone is talking to you, whether it be in a lecture, conversation, etc, and you ask a question that causes the topic being discussed to change course completely to something unrelated. The result, is by the time the person speaking realizes that they are not even close to being in the same neighborhood of the intended subject, they have long forgotten what it was they were speaking about to begin with.

This was one of my favorite things to do in school.

Not that I’m old, but I now have a big girl job, a dog, my own little casita, my own bills, etc. I’ve noticed that the older I become, the more I find myself on bird walks. I’ll start or engage in a conversation, and during the course of it, forgetting completely what the original topic was. I used to think it was so funny that I was able to completely change a lesson plan, just by asking my teacher how he felt about chicken nuggets.

Now that I’m the one being taken for a bird walk, I am trying to enjoy the scenery.  Luckily, I’ve got some great company for the trip.