Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Lives

For the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about life, the things that happen in our lives and how we respond to them. This has really been ramped up in the past few weeks due to heated discussions with my mom and the subsequent letters she decided to write my sister and I. I have spent a lot of time wondering why my mom is the way she is and why I am not like that. We both had difficult childhoods. We both spent years living with her second husband. I had a lot of anger as a teenager and young adult.  And, like anyone else who has reached a certain point in life, we have each experienced both amazing and horrific things. It’s all part of being alive, part of being human.  But I wonder why I am not like her. I don’t remember a conscious decision to emotionally go in a different direction. I have tried to find that defining moment when I took a step off the path she laid out for me and I don’t know when it happened.

Maybe it never did. Maybe I was always on a different path. One thing I have noticed, is that when “good” or “bad” things happen, people tend to respond in two different ways. They either let those things define them, or they let those things guide them. I think that is where my mom and I are polemic extremes. My mom has cloaked herself in the “bad” things that have happened in her life and she keeps record of every “bad” thing anyone has ever done to her. If my sister or I told a lie, talked back, got a bad grade or anything else negative when we were children, she remembers it and she brings it up again and again. Every bad working experience, argument, questionable look from a stranger is taken as a judgment as well as confirmation that the world is against her. She is a modern day Job, with misery and despair being her chosen destiny.

I have always tried to approach things differently. I don’t always succeed, but I always try to see things for what they are and what I might learn. I try not to let the things that happen define me. I have made mistakes. I have been hurt. I’ve done the hurting. I’ve dealt and am dealing with two strokes, battled depression, had relationships that didn’t work, financial issues and more. But those things are not who I am, they are just things that have crossed my path. Or, like a friend of mine wrote me several months ago, they are the path I was meant to take.  A lot of my life has been amazing. I am very aware of how lucky I have been; the people I have met, the love, the travel, and the experiences. But those too, do not define who I am.

Somehow, my mom and I approach life differently, and yet, there is a fear. A fear that one day I will be as she is. My mom used to be fun. She used to laugh and enjoy life. She was a major practical joker. My friends loved her, thought she was cool. I don’t know where that person went or why she left. I sometimes fear I will become that person as well. I wish I wasn’t able to say it, but I look at my mom as everything I do not want to be. And I know that many times, we become the very thing we dislike the most. I’ve caught glimpses of her in my actions. When I was going through the depression, that is what scared me the most. When I hear myself being negative, I fear I am stepping onto her path and I don’t want that.

Maybe it is the upcoming holidays, but I find myself thinking about it a lot. I don’t understand how someone that has such easy access to some wonderful things in life, would choose to keep herself chained to misery and almost wear it with pride. I never want to be that person.  

Friday, November 07, 2014

Toxic Matters

It’s just past five in the morning and I have been up since three and even before that, my night has been restless. So many things going through my head that I just can’t sleep. I can’t get the internal loop of dialogue to quiet down and so, after fighting the urge to write it all out for almost two hours, here I am, in a quiet house trying to purge myself of the screaming voices that are shattering the silence.

It all comes down to one person. We all have that one person in our lives who seems to drain us of every positive emotion and then effortlessly and skillfully fill our spirits with such toxic debris. For years, I have dressed myself in an emotional hazmat suit whenever we see each other or interact, and still, each time, I need hours if not days to decontaminate from the experience.

It’s difficult to spend time in the presence of or be open to a person who seems to perfume themselves in misery and unhappiness. I also don’t understand people like that. I know we all have our down moments and times of wallowing. I have been very open about a lot of mine over the past few years. But even in the depth of all of that, I still struggled to not let it define me. I don’t understand people who choose not only to live their lives in anger and guilt, but who choose to hold onto it with all their might in fear they will lose the very thing that is making them miserable.

I know that often times when people are negative or critical of others, it is not really abut the person they are being negative towards, it is about themselves. Logically, I know this. Emotionally, the nuclear fallout from people like that is still devastating. It is hard enough when I am the brunt of it. Harder still when I see others I love being attacked with such shocking brutality.

Normally, I distance myself from people like that. I cut them out and don’t give them the power to influence my life at all. One quote I love is “Not my monkeys. Not my circus.” I’ve been repeating it as my mantra over the past twelve hours. My advice to anyone dealing with someone like that is to get away, as far away as possible and never look back. But I don’t know how to do that with this person. I want to. I know I need to. What makes it difficult is that the person is my mom.

This is not some random fight or isolated event. This has been going on for decades. I have tried to be passive and see if it will work itself out. I have tried every tactic from every book and lesson I’ve had. I have tried ignoring it. Confronting it. Distancing myself physically. Pleading. Reasoning. Bargaining. I don’t know what else to do. A few weeks ago we had an argument over the phone. A few days later, she told me I have a heart filled with anger and hate and she worries for me. I spent days examining myself, wondering if indeed I am a hate-filled person. I questioned if I do really have an angry heart. I questioned my integrity and cut my way through the jungle of guilt. Guilt I felt for things I had nothing to do with but she manages to take me there all the time.

I examined my relationships with the other people in my life. My sisters and I haven’t had an argument in well over a decade, and the last time things were event emotionally tense was when my dad passed away, which is understandable. Our emotions were frayed and right on the surface. But even then, it blew over in a matter of minutes. In over fifteen years and even going through a divorce, Ulco and I never really had a huge fight. We had disagreements, but we worked them out quickly. Jan, my stepmom, and I haven’t had an argument or even upset words in well over a decade. My friend Ken, who I have known for almost thirty years and I have never had an argument. And he an I can both be stubborn and emotionally charged people. The only person that seems to bring up anger in me is my mom.

I have also noticed she likes to bring up anger. She loves guilt. She loves to be the victim. Anything said that she doesn’t like or agree with somehow gets turned into the fact that she was a bad mother. Her words, not mine. The last time she said that to me on the phone a few weeks ago, I finally said “yeah, you were.”

Yesterday, she handed me a very long, hand-written letter, which I knew would be a bad idea to read, but I did. And the letter she wrote my sister was worse by a factor of ten, at least. I got through mine. I only scanned a few sentences of hers.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to respond. I want to and I don’t want to. I know it won’t do any good. I have been here before. Countless times. Each time, I think and let myself believe that maybe that will be the time. That will be the moment there is a breakthrough. For years, I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered what I did to bring out that side of someone. Now, I see that she does it to everyone in her life.

And yet, there is a part of me that still hopes she will change. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

That Nagging Feeling

Last month, I had a meeting with a client to discuss their marketing efforts and how I could help them. It happened to be for a chiropractic office. I, like most people, always thought chiropractors were about cracking bones and aching backs. For many, that might be true, but this particular one specializes in Cranial Spinal Integration, something I had heard nothing about. According to their website, it does the following:
Cranial Spinal Integration (CSI) allows the left and right brain hemispheres to rebalance and reintegrate in a profound way which improves the functioning of the central nervous system automatically. This then allows your body to experience restored function and improved health.
For the past three years, I have had issues with my nervous system. I don’t feel hot or cold on my left side. I have no feelings of hunger or being full, which had caused me to forget about eating – sometimes for days – as well as making it easy for me to overeat during meals, which would cause all sorts of other issues. I saw the blurb about CSI when looking through their brochure and talked to the doctor, curious, but not really buying into it. We talked about the stroke, the things I should and shouldn’t do. Things that none of my other doctors told me. However, I remained unconvinced but decided to keep an open mind and give it a go. After all, I had nothing to lose.

I began the treatments in September, going three times per week. I also started taking fish oil and vitamin B complex, which help rejuvenate the nerves. As I expected, nothing happened. Yeah, I had more energy and I generally felt better, but there was nothing that really made me take notice. Until last week…

I woke up on Thursday morning feeling strange. My stomach was achy and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t have cramps. It was just an uncomfortable, nagging feeling. It took me about five minutes to realize I was feeling hungry. For the first time since December 24, 2011, I felt hungry. That was confirmed when I ate and the feeling went away. I didn’t feel full at all, I just didn’t feel hungry. Then, I would feel hungry every couple of hours. My system is no longer used to the scheduled eating, so, like a baby, I get hungry all the time.

Yesterday, I was out to lunch and I got through most of my meal when again, I had a weird feeling. It was different than the hunger. I again went through the list wondering if I was feeling ill or having stomach issues. Then, I realized I felt full. I was having lunch with a friend of mine who later told me she was a little surprised when she saw me put my fork down.

Having the ability to feel hungry and full is amazing and I can already feel something happening on other parts of my left side. I don’t really know what is going on yet, or if the results will spread to other things, but even if not, I am so thankful for what I have already gotten back.

I am really looking forward to see what else happens and where this all leads. And I am really enjoying the uncomfortable feeling of being hungry again!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I woke up just a little past six this morning. It was in that space between sleep and wake that I thought about how I needed to spend my day looking for a job. The past thirty months or so have been full of false starts and it has been issue of work that has bothered me the most.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to stop with the blogging. I couldn’t do it anymore. The same old gloom and doom and rehashing of everything I had said so many times before. An outlet and therapeutic at first, writing had become a way for me to keep myself locked in the moment. I went from making me feel better to compounding the situation. So I made the decision to take a break and refocus.

So instead of focusing on what I didn’t want, I took the time and really cemented an image of what I did want. My resume is not one that fits into any specific career category. Rather, it speaks about my drive, my personality and the kind of person I am. It is a resume of building things, helping people, taking risks and achieving goals. It is not a safe resume. It is one that has been driven by my dreams instead of titles. Some careers were a great fit. Some weren’t, but I learned from each of them. So when asked about the type of job I would like to do, what would make me happy, I didn’t have a really clear vision or answer. My ideal job is a smash of things ranging from training, coaching and leadership to strategy, marketing and social media. I also love the idea of helping people and making a difference. Finding a job that incorporates all those things is just not realistic, so I spent the time focusing on a few different paths I could take.  

I woke up just a little past six this morning. It was in that space between sleep and wake that I thought about how I needed to spend my day looking for a job. And then my reality came into focus and I realized I have a job. Yes, I got a job. It wasn’t even one I applied for, it was one that came to me. I will be doing training, coaching and leadership as well as strategy, marketing and social media, among other things. And it gets even better - I will be doing those things to help other people, making a difference in the lives of others and the community. Empowering people and helping them succeed. And getting that same thing right back. One thing I have always loved about training and coaching is that I also get something out of it each time. Teaching and helping others teaches and helps me.

Last Thursday, I walked through the doors of my new life and a future that keeps me awake. This morning, once the realization of my new reality set it, my mind just started overflowing with ideas. They have ben an endless river and I have the opportunity to turn many of them into a reality.  Walking each day, I feel a little lighter, more myself. I can laugh without that feeling of impending doom lingering in the background.  

And to the person that made this happen and the people who have cheered me on, loved me supported me and helped in ways I can’t begin to describe, thank you. There is no way I could have done this on my own. And I am grateful and blessed I didn’t have to.