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. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

So Long...

I’ve made a decision to stop with this blog, at least for now. I feel like I have said the same things so many times and in so many ways, and now I feel it is time to take a break. I will pick it up again if and when I feel like I have something new to say instead of once again rehashing it all. It isn’t something I enjoy right now. I feel like I am forcing myself. What was once relaxing, fun, therapeutic or whatever, has just become a chore.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my ramblings and for all the comments and words of encouragement. I really appreciate it. It has all meant a lot to me.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

July 5, 2014

It is no secret that I am at a point where I am really treading some pretty choppy waters in life right now. When I wrote my last post, I was in a place where I really could not see a way out and well, there wasn’t one. At least not if I was going to go it alone. I won’t go into details or mention names, but once again I am learning there is always a path through, sometimes we just need someone to point it out or clear the brush that is hiding it.

I am still going through and dealing with a lot of things I really wish I didn’t have in my life and while I can’t see much of a path right now, I can see where the next few steps may lead and hopefully from there, see a little further.

Asking for help, being vulnerable and letting people see just how much things suck is not an easy thing at all. When I write, there are times I have to force it out. I cried through a lot of that last blog post. Thinking about it hurt enough. Walking on the emotional broken glass was even worse. I don’t want to bring people into my problems and at the same time, I don’t want to hide. Yes, I am dealing with depression and I know that it is not something just one person deals with. I know there are people around me affected by what I do and don’t do. I haven’t spent much time with my niece and nephews. I have been voiding my sister, avoiding Ulco and hiding out. I have been lying to people saying that things are great or ok when really, they just suck.

One of the things I have hated since the stroke is the need I feel to put others at ease. Anyone who has had a major illness or tragedy knows what I mean. You share something with someone just because you need to talk about it and next thing you know, you are telling them that everything will be ok and that they shouldn’t worry. I can’t do that anymore. What you see is what you get and what you see is where I am. I’m not trying to get responses or anything, I just want to get things out and maybe in the process someone will relate a little to what I write or what I am going through. A big part of depression and major life changes is the feeling of being alone. The feeling that nobody understands. The feeling that I am bringing everyone around me down.

My therapist asked me how I felt about the strokes and the depression. I told her I was angry, ashamed and embarrassed. I am. I grew up with a mom that talked about killing herself, that kept herself drugged up on over-the-counter medications. She numbed herself and in doing so, isolated herself from everyone and everything. I am trying to do the opposite. I want to feel it, to deal with it, to get through it and beyond it. I am trying to silence the voices that constantly say I’m not ____________ enough. Or perhaps worse, that I am just simply not enough.

Sometimes it is hard to believe and have faith in something that just seems so impossible. I just have to approach it the way I approached learning to walk again. Taking it one step at a time and then taking the next step. Not worrying about how far I get, just trying to get one step further than the day before. Some days went great and some days were torture, but they all finally came together and before too long, I was hiking in mountains and canyons. I was nervous and scared, but I did it. And I am trying now to do it again. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

July 2, 2014

Over the past few years, one of the things I have had to come to terms with, is accepting the help of others. It was and is an extremely difficult thing that I have never really adjusted to. Since coming back to the US two years ago, I feel less like I am accepting help and more like I am a burden on so many people.

All I have wanted to do, really, is be able to take care of myself and just when it seems I have it figured out, everything goes awry. This constant restarting and then stopping is exhausting and I’m tired, I’m frustrated and have just had enough of it. I’m tired of not being able to take care of myself, tired of feeling depressed and less than a person. I’m tired of making people around me feel comfortable with my situation. I’m tired of holding on, waiting for just a few days, weeks or whenever until things turn around. I no longer feel like things are going to turn around.

Over the course of the next week, there will be a lot of things happening in my life, lots of changes and not one of them is for the better. It’s so impossibly overwhelming, I can’t really wrap my head around it all.  I can only see that there seems to be no real way out. Just a couple of months ago, I thought I had it figured out. I had a plan. Then I had another stroke. Then I had nothing figured out. No plans.

I don’t know what to do. I really don’t. I’ve spent years going this way, going that way, running into wall after wall and I don’t know what else to do, where to look, or what even to think. I keep it myself because people get uncomfortable, don’t know what to say. I can’t expect anything more. I’m uncomfortable and I don’t know what to say.

I was reading some of my old blog posts a week or so ago. All the trips, the clothes, the dinners, the adventures and then I look at things as they are now and I don’t understand any of it. And I’m tired of trying to figure it all out. I gave up looking for meaning it a long time ago, I just want to find a way through.

One thing I have found so odd is how people can say I have been inspiring or anything like that. It is a word that makes me cringe most of the time. I really don’t want to be inspiring, I just want to be ok. And I am a long way off from ok. Inspiring is pressure, it’s a strange word to hear directed toward me and something I can’t live up to.

I have no idea what the next week and beyond will hold. Not even the slightest bit of a hint. I just have this feeling, the knowledge that I am going to have to go it alone. I can’t be a burden anymore. To anyone.

So that is where I am today, in this moment. Next week, who knows.