Tag Archives: sweet words

Three Years Gone

20 Nov

Today is bittersweet for me. It’s the anniversary of my father’s death, which, 3 years later, is still a painful thing to think about. I know I’m not alone in this pain. My little sister and brother share in it just the same. I hope somewhere, some time, they get to read this and understand that I’m thinking of them and love them to pieces. Luckily, I have a very good reason to be very happy as well: my best friend gave birth to her first son, whom I call Bowser, on this same date two years ago. It’s a strange situation for me. I love Bowser, he’s one of the coolest semi-new humans ever. He gives me reason to smile today,but I miss my dad.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I really realized that even though I haven’t  been deliberately dwelling on the approaching anniversary, it still affects me. It’s painful to deal with, even though it’s not in my conscious thoughts. It’s interesting how depression can sneak its way into your life. Little by little, it puts a shadow over your existence. Before you know it, you’re in a hole. Sometimes that hole is so deep that the sky is nearly invisible. I want people to know that they’re not alone with this.

For this reason, I feel it appropriate to re-visit a post from way back. It’s one of my favorite posts because I believe depression is a topic that is easily brushed aside by many because they don’t understand, and obscured by those affected by it. It’s not something that we can recover from unless we face it. So, I’m shining a light on it once more. I hope it helps.

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

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.

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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?

WRECK IT WEDNESDAY!!! (Issue No. 6)

11 Apr

Welcome to Wreck It Wednesday! This is where I show you that breaking free of the way you used to look at things can free your spirit and open up all new possibilities. Today, we’re gonna talk letters. Not emails. Not text messages. Not skyping or leaving messages on Facebook walls. Hand-written, from the heart, letters.

No fancy paper...just a wire-bound book of notebook paper. It still makes me smile every time I read it.

Staring at a blank piece of paper may induce panic attacks in some, sure. But I know that amidst all of the junk mail and bills, we all secretly (or maybe not so secretly) adore getting real people mail. There’s nothing quite like seeing your name and address, hand-written across the front of an envelope. We inspect it and wonder what’s inside. It’s a wonderful experience. It tells us that someone cares about us and took a few minutes out of their busy day to let us know that we were on their mind.

It makes me infinitely sad to think that we don’t physically write much anymore. As a matter of fact, I know a lot of people who don’t know how to write or sign their name in cursive. The problem I see with all the technology we have going on these days, is that we’re always go go go. We need a faster, more efficient way of doing every imaginable task. The problem with all this multi-tasking, we miss a lot of details. Take writing an email for example. You have your account open, typing an email–but what’s that in the background on your desk top? Oh, your Facebook account is up, so is the website for your bank account, and who knows what else. A little bit of meaning is taken away when you don’t give tasks your full attention. Your friends and family deserve that attention, right? Well, get out that paper and your favorite writing implement so we can get started.

Remember in school, all the different ways we came up with to fold notes? ahhhh...the good ole days.

 Letters don’t need to be beautiful, well thought out prose to be  handed down through generations. They don’t need to be on nice stationary, or written in pen. They don’t even need to be letters at all. As a matter of fact, I regularly write notes here and there for various reasons, and sometimes no reason at all, other than to let someone know I’m thinking of them. I also regularly use markers, crayon and even stickers.

So now that you’re ready to begin, how do you begin? Well, how would you start a conversation with the person if you were speaking face to face? You can start your letter with: “So I was walking down the street the other day, and I saw a poster of a girl holding a puppy that reminded of you…” Heck, you don’t even have to write any words at all–draw a picture. Don’t worry so much about what you think a letter should look like. This is Wreck It Wednesday! A letter is supposed to look like whatever it ends up looking like when you’re done writing or drawing on the paper. Whoever you’re writing it for isn’t going to take a look at the letter and throw it back in your face because they find it unsatisfactory. (As a side note, if they do actually throw it back in your face, you should give serious consideration to removing that person from your list of friends.) They are going to feel happiness because you took a minute to let them know you took a little time out of your busy day for them. Stop letting the fear of not being “good enough” keep you from doing things.

These are letters that my daddy wrote me while he was on deployment. They were written in 1991, and I still have them. That's how much they mean to me.

This is my favorite letter. My daddy was a great artist, and was kinda goofy.

We put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves.  We feel as though we have to behave a certain way or have or do certain things to be accepted, to give meaning to our lives. That’s hogwash. Be yourself and live your life mindfully without letting outside judgement hinder your happiness. That’s how you put meaning in your life. Dr. Seuss once said, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” The man may have been crazy, but his words are fact. And incidentally, it’s why I started wrecking Wednesdays. Sure, my life may be a proverbial train wreck, but it’s mine and it makes me happy. Sure, people can’t take their eyes off it, but such is the life of a wreck. 🙂

Who Are You Calling Inspiring?? …Oh, Me? Well…

9 Apr

I never really expected anyone to read this blog. I first started because I love to write, and share new ideas. I have had a long difficult road, rebuilding my life from loss and depression. I found that putting my thoughts together and having a space to share helps to remind me that being genuine, loving, and forgiving is the key to happiness. Imagine my complete surprise when I received a nomination from a fellow blogger, calling me very inspiring.

Well, thank you so much to Angela, my friend at MyDailyCreativity. It means a lot from a fellow trooper to have  this “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” passed on to me. She is a strong woman taking a creative approach to grief recovery. Everyday a new post, and each one reminds me that there is not just one way to recover from a profound loss. Her journey is a personally inspiring one, and definitely one worth following. 

To accept this award I am supposed to nominate 7 other blogs that I find inspiring:

  1. TheFauxMartha – Delicious recipes and beautiful photos to match, it’ll make you embrace your inner chef.
  2. Love&aSixFootLeash – Beautifully written tales of a pit-bull rescue. It makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me want to build a doggie-farm to take in all the neglected and abused pups. 
  3. SaraForshawsBlog – An interesting mix of posts, all of which make me smile.
  4. SimpleLifeofaCountryMansWife – Each post makes me strive harder to live my life more simply, enjoying every drop of life.
  5. MuyBuenoCookbook – Food that is as beautiful as it is delicious. These ladies have inspired me to embrace my heritage, and learn more about mexican cuisine.
  6. ThePioneerWoman – An inspiration. I can’t say it any other way. Food, life, home, family, crafts…
  7. Tom.Basson– Words that inspire me to be a better person.

I am also supposed to tell you 7 Little Known Things about me. Well, here you go:

  1. I would like to have kids some day…but I’m terrified of being a parent.
  2. I love making people happy with my cooking/baking.
  3. I am addicted to stickers and have been banned from purchasing any more.
  4. I am also addicted to books. (but I have not yet reached the point where I require an intervention)
  5. I have a very difficult following written instructions, especially recipes.
  6. Music can regulate my emotions.
  7. I can’t buy gifts too far in advance because I get so excited about it, I have a hard time keeping it a surprise.

Again, thank you so much for this honor. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to bring some sunshine into your lives.

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.

 

I got ShamRocked…

22 Mar

I had the opportunity to attend Blake Shelton’s Well Lit and Amplified tour in Las Vegas on Saint Patrick’s Day. Wowzers! The show rocked my socks off. The line up? Dia Frampton (from the show The Voice) opening for Justin Moore and Blake Shelton. Here’s how it went down…

Walked from our room at Excalibur and made a…quick stop at the craps tables when we got to Mandalay Bay…

Okay, so it wasn’t a quick stop, but we’re in Vegas, so oh well. (My little brother would argue that we couldn’t get somewhere on time if our lives depended on it, but no one asked him.) We left the tables about 10 minutes after the show started. We got to the metal detectors outside the event center only to realize that we had both brought our pocket knives. Now before you raise your eyebrow at me, let me start by saying that I carry my knife on me just about everywhere I go. Its habit, so I didn’t even realize until the metal detectors were upon us. A very nice older gentleman tried to get us past security, as we were upstanding citizens and didn’t attempt to hide our weapons…to no avail. Then he suggested that we try checking them at the bell desk. He did caution us to the fact that they may not check them for us, since they’re weapons. Soooo….I tucked them into my hoodie’s pockets and handed it to the very nice bell desk attendant. Crisis averted.

Needless to say, we were not punctual enough to catch Dia Frampton’s performance. We also missed Justin’s first song.

Color us happy to know that we had made it for all of our favorite Justin Moore songs. I call that winning. He was charismatic, funny and connected to his audience instantly. He has a modest disposition and a “kiss-my-ass-if-you-don’t-like-my-music” attitude…it really felt like we were hanging out with friends than sitting in an event center with thousands of strangers. Maybe that’s just because we have a rough-around-the-edges group of friends (let’s face it, I’m pretty rough around the edges myself) but, aside from making amazing music, we found him very likable and entertaining. Extra kudos for putting on such a great performance despite having laryngitis. What a trooper he is!

Now, Blake Shelton. Well, the man is talented. Contrary to what some people think, he is not a new comer to the world of country music; he’s well established, though he has admittedly been on a hot streak, so-to-speak. His abundance of attention is well-earned, let me tell you.

He opened with a cover of Footloose that actually didn’t make me cringe. In fact, I enjoyed it very much, especially since he followed up with three more uninterrupted songs before pausing to speak to the audience. Like Justin, he was funny and modest and expressed his gratitude for his fans. Always nice to hear you’re appreciated, especially when you’re spending money you don’t really have on concert tickets. It turns out that he and Justin make excellent touring partners, considering their shared distaste in the suits trying to censor them and attempting to push conformity on them. He has an irreverent humor and attitude that made him immediately likable. He spoke about his experience with the tv show The Voice. He shared his admiration for his peers on the show and even played (most of) a Cee-Lo Green song. It made me smile.

In the middle of his performance, he let the band take a break and did an acoustic set at the end of the catwalk. Just him and his guitars. He tested the crowd’s “Blake Shelton music knowledge” as he played a number of songs from his early days. The crowd sang along…so we passed.

Later in the show, Dia Frampton took the stage to sing a duet that will appear on her upcoming album. I have to be honest. I wasn’t a fan. I don’t watch The Voice, so going into this, I had no idea who she was. It was my least favorite part of the show, even more so than having to wait in epically long lines for beer. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure she has a beautiful voice and is immensely talented. But she seemed and sounded very nervous and it made me glad that we had missed the opening act completely.

The set list as a whole was awesome, all the songs we hoped he’d play…all except for God Gave Me You.

The show ended, and the crowed cheered. Of course we weren’t going to let him off the hook quite yet. Blake kindly obliged us with an encore that even Justin Moore came out for. Our patience was handsomely rewarded as he closed out with God Gave Me You.

:::::sigh::::: I couldn’t have asked for a better show. We sat in the cheap seats, and still had a decent view that didn’t at all detract from our enjoyment. If you ever have the chance to see Justin Moore or Blake Shelton, I highly recommend that you jump on it.

I give this Saint Patty’s day show a two thumbs up to the sky. (Yes, my thumbs may be small, but powerful, they are.)

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.