kept in hand

It’s easy to say I won’t cry
but I will.
And you knew that – you must know me too well, but still…
In denial, I thought it was all kept in hand.
My perception was off –
you must understand…

So I’m here in that place where
I swore not to be.
Waiting for you … seems you’ve left without me.
And my suitcase is full
with my baggage so heavy
thought I’d built up a dam – it was only a levee.

The water is deeper than my skills were prepared…
All this weight counterbalanced
is making me scared.
But this flood will recede
and you’ll do what you must…
Then I’ll quietly blow on away with the dust.

After serving my purpose, after serving my time.
I’m a figment of passion –
I’m the victim, the crime.
And your gaze moves past me
in this silence of space…
With no words I’m effectively
back in my place.

~h

huddled before you

heart cookie cutterthere is a secret language in my heart
… a tremulous pulse …
timid and tender as a soft first kiss
breath mingling, a shiver transposed
and if you follow the line
of my pale, fragile throat you might
read these syllables
as they beat in time

my lips are a tiny crescent moon
and the corners shine
this curve of shy emotion.
hiding all these questions and uncertainties
my eyes flutter shut as they
divert attention
– a detour around –
the roiling turmoil within.

some days
every little thing is pain ~
every doubt insurmountable
and i’m clinging to hopes that crumble and burn.
so could you be unafraid,
please come and meet me in this
vulnerable place?
where the timbre of your voice soothes me.
the refuge of your arms could be
a sanctuary – the safest place –
to share all that’s locked within.

you give me shelter
through this struggle and storm
as i memorize the planes of your face
in the warmth of all we have created
thankful – the remedy of all i seek
in your eyes
i pray you will not turn away
from these broken, bitter pieces
this damaged mess huddled before you.

close your eyes if you must
and find the real me
buried within
all these things I can’t articulate
–   a secret language   –
please read these words like braille
with your strong, capable hands
they cradle my heart.

~h

 

Know What I Meme?

Do you enjoy seeing a funny meme pop up on your social media thread?  Reading a meaningful one, perhaps, that inspires or challenges you?  On the off-chance that you’re not familiar with what a “meme” is (Don, I’m looking at you!), let me give you a quick introduction.  A meme (rhymes with team) is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.  The most common modern example is in the form of internet memes – usually funny, cute images with a witty saying or quote.  They’re engaging and entertaining, and occasionally they offer a more in-depth observation about life and the human condition.

A close friend of mine posted a meme on social media yesterday and it has been on my mind ever since.  It expresses the fear that people don’t actually like you and just tolerate you hoping you’ll leave them alone.  (Notice I said a close friend posted this.  If they find their way here and read this, I have to urge them — please know you have no reason to fear.  You are genuinely cared about – not merely tolerated – and an asset and joy to many!)

"I havea a massive fear that no one actually likes me, rather everyone is just politely tolerating me hoping I will leave them alone."

What was instantly ironic for me, upon seeing this meme, is that I had recently expressed a very similar fear in more traditional communication.  It’s something many people might think but don’t necessarily say.   Either way, the words with this image portray a deeply guarded secret I’ve carried in my heart for a long time.

Most of my acquaintances would probably agree I’m fairly positive and try to keep an upbeat attitude.  Those that know me more substantially, however, are aware that sometimes that face is an act.  I am embarrassingly sensitive, and that sensitivity, in fact, can breed and amplify negative things…  There are days I struggle with depression and crippling insecurities that necessitate wearing a public persona so no one knows the things I keep inside.   Days when my faith wavers and bends like grass in the wind.  Try as I might, I can’t always keep the fears at bay… One of the greatest of which, is that I am not only unloved but that I am, in fact, unlovable.

Positivity has not always been easy for me.  When younger, I was actually quite abusive to myself.  Self-deprecation was a foreign language I studied and mastered (and still speak to this day), and I would continually compare myself to unrealistic beauty standards (which I still manage to do).  I was also physically cruel to myself in this pattern of self-destructive.  My eating habits were not normal and I would briefly deny myself food as a form of self-control and discipline… and perhaps the worst – I went through a period of time when I self-harmed.  I was a “cutter”.

There’s still enough shame in admitting that fact that I almost want to delete most of the last paragraph.  Part of my mind whispers, however, that perhaps the admission will help someone else one day so I should leave it out there for people to see.

amazing how much long sleeves and a fake smile can hide

“Cutting” typically involves making scratches or cuts on your body with some sort of sharp object until you bleed…  I’m sure several people close to me know I went through a couple of difficult times and still bear a few scars as witness.  To the great majority this will be a surprise, though, as I took great pains to hide the fact and my smile stayed fairly constant on my “public” face.  Those who have never had this sort of tendency may not ever understand.  To people who have self-harmed, self-medicated or engaged in any other self-destructive behavior, I probably don’t need to explain any further.  For me, it was a way to deal with all of the things I had no control over – such as feeling unworthy and unlovable.  The pain I created for myself, however briefly, overshadowed the pain inflicted by life, and the endorphins released offered a false sense of peace for a short time after.  In the end, it was more damaging than helpful and I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that now…  (*Please see notes at the end of this post!*)

Seeing people post images or quotes on social media that echo the turmoil and heartache I felt during those chaotic years bring back a lot of memories.  The majority are not good, but there are lessons learned from the mess those years left.  One of the most important, for me, is the idea that I will always be flawed, I will always be “broken” in a multitude of ways… Yet, those facts do not make me unlovable.  They merely make me human and make up the sum of who I am.  I’ve spent a large part of my life believing people don’t actually like me, and that they could not – would not – love me if they could see all the damage and darkness in my soul.  The truth is much kinder, thank goodness, than my vicious inner voice… The truth is that we all have struggles and dark times. We all have concerns and inescapable fears buried deep within the shadows of our hearts.  Despite the flawed, imperfect parts of us, we are all deserving and capable of being loved.  The flavor and depth of fear is different for each of us, but I doubt I’m alone when I think people merely tolerate my presence until they can escape.  That does not mean that it’s true… However, if I continue to fall back on a lifetime of self-destructive patterns, it makes it seem plausible.

amy bloom

So what to do?  I wish I knew the answer and could share it freely with you.  The best I can offer, I think, is a glimpse into what helps *me* with this struggle.  Try to find positive things to be grateful for every day.  Joy breeds joy and whatever you fill yourself with is going to multiply, so do try to treat yourself with kindness!  More importantly, however is being present in life… One of the most empowering things I do is take risks and learn from possible rejection.  It makes it sound easier than it is, to be sure, but nothing wonderful is gained without first taking a bit of a risk.  John A. Shedd wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”  There is something beautiful and true in that simple sentiment.  As humans, love, I believe, is the very essence of who we are – our very nature.  It would be easy to avoid rejection and pain by staying safe at port, but it is not truly how we’re built… And while we may not always be fully loved in return, those that do love and value us usually make that sentiment known in their words and actions.  The trick, reader, is to teach your heart to trust that it is true.

let-someone-love-you-as-flawed-as-you-are

Love one another, dear friends, and be kind…

 

~h

 

 

 

*** PLEASE NOTE:  Regardless of my past, I DO NOT endorse self-injury or harm and highly recommend that anyone considering it or doing  anything of the sort, please find someone you trust and reach out to them!  Please don’t use this pretend therapy of creating new wounds in an effort to heal old – it WILL. NOT. WORK.  If you can’t talk to someone you know, check out any number of available websites such as this one, this one, or this one.

 

Being Brave & Other Seemingly Impossible Pursuits

Last week I wrote a post about an issue that, throughout most of my life, has hurt and plagued me.  Weight. More specifically, my weight and how society, in general, views those that don’t conform to certain standards of beauty. On the surface it was an open letter to a gentleman that gawked at the size of my posterior (in a mean, prejudicial way), but underneath it was a message about acceptance.

After the post went up I received several lovely comments and messages from people who were moved or impacted by what I wrote… There are quite a few marvelous people in my life, so it shouldn’t surprise me that any number of them took the time to read my words and reach out to me in support.  You never know, though.  Sometimes is feels I fling these messages out into the ether and no one is aware of their existence. My voice is infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things, after all, so even a couple of views feels like a home run!

Of the many kind comments extended, one, in particular, was especially meaningful to me. It came from someone I deeply admire and respect, someone who knows me well enough to read all the nuances of that blog post while not being close enough to lose objectivity. He reached out to me in an intelligent and witty rejoinder and wrote something that meant more than most any comment I’ve received on this blog.  (You know who you are, and if you are reading this please accept my apology for not being able to properly convey how much gratitude I feel for your generous words!)  Not only did he think my writing was beautiful (words *any* writer, no matter how amateur or seasoned loves to hear), but he told me I was brave.

Brave.

Courageous. Valiant. Bold. Gutsy.

Fearless.

One of my mantras this year has been to try to approach life with less fear. I have even toyed with the idea of a tattoo to forever remind me of this philosophy. It’s not that I have lacked courage or conviction in the past. It’s not that I haven’t gone out of my comfort zone to accomplish something that was merely a hope or a dream. My nature, however, is to seek perfection and fear anything less. Often, in the past, that fear has paralyzed me. Kept me from goals I could have accomplished. Prevented me from fully pursuing passions or aspirations. I have been frozen in place by fear and allowed self-doubt and negativity to keep me from doing things I might otherwise do. Because I was not brave…

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Bravery is difficult. It’s painful at times. Going out into the world determined to valiantly confront whatever comes your way does not automatically mean success. It is not a given. There is a Latin Proverb (perhaps originating from Virgil?) that states, “Fortune favors the brave.” (Or, one more literal translation, “Fortune helps the daring.”) According to myth, Fortuna, the Goddess of luck, is more likely to help those that take risks. My experience in the real world proves that this is sometimes false. Fortune does not necessarily favor the brave or help the daring. In spite of that, I believe it is true that success is *not* merely a matter of luck. Going out into the world bravely does seem to tilt the odds more in one’s favor…

 

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

So, this year was about chances. Taking greater risks. Trying to stare fear in the face and simply, be brave. Remembering, even in the midst of my fear, that failure is not fatal…  In some respects, I feel I’ve made tremendous strides and dared more than I normally would. In other respects, it appears there is still a long way to go. As I try to redefine who I am and how I face the world, it is amazing and humbling to discover that someone out there actually noticed and took the time to tell me they thought that I was brave.

To the Man Who Stared at My Butt… And Other Inconsiderate People

I was standing in the store a few days ago and became aware that the guy beside me was staring at my butt. In all fairness to him, I have no idea what thoughts were going through his head – “nice pants”, “did I get everything on my list?”, “man, she’s a porker”… At the same time that I turned slightly to the side, I realized that this man’s friend was also staring. Unlike the first gentleman, his expression was very easy to interpret.  He made no attempt to hide the fact that he thought I was unattractive and overweight, and staring at me was like a bad car wreck he couldn’t look away from but desperately wanted to.  In a few seconds time a bank of clouds skirted across the happiness of my day and I stood there stiffly while hearing his comment about me being fat.

This is my life since becoming a larger gal, and I’m here to sum it up pretty quickly: It sucks.

When I was younger I could not be pinned down long enough to do much that didn’t involve physical activity of some kind. Swimming, biking, dancing, gymnastics – you name it, I loved it, and was thrilled with my body and its strength and abilities. I never worried about whether I was physically  capable of doing things, I just did them. Even then, however, my weight and self-image took up more of my time and attention than it should have. Schoolwork was pretty easy for me, but instead of being proud of my intelligence and creativity – participating in all advanced classes, sitting for the SAT in the 7th grade, etc – I mostly wanted to feel comfortable about the way I looked. I wish I could say I believe in all the positive things I put out into the world, but I’m as influenced by the media as most any other woman I know. There is an ongoing social argument about whether or not society teaches women (girls) that their looks are unacceptable at any size (it does), but I think the continued epidemic of eating disorders at ever younger ages speaks for itself.  Something else that speaks for itself? The attitudes of others…

It would be disrespectful to single out the gentleman from three days ago as the only man who made me aware of my weight. I have plenty of ‘chubby’ stories and have even had the privilege of hearing warm, endearing past compliments such as, “You have a great personality, and I’d be more attracted to you if you’d only lose weight.” ……  Sure thing! Maybe if these men had known me well enough “on the inside” it would cease to matter what I look like on the outside. Doubtful, but stranger things have happened, I suppose. The issue I have with that idea is that I don’t want people to accept me and find me attractive *in spite of* my weight. This is who I am.

12122767_779687118809230_2133655397191058379_n

*sigh*

In the last few years there has been a movement to end “fat shaming” and it has definite supporters and detractors. Speaking to the validity and influence of that movement is a post for another day and time, I think, but I will say I’m happy people are having conversations about it at all… Even when a vast majority of those conversations turn hurtful and antagonistic.  For instance, while pondering this post I read several articles and blogs and discovered heartbreaking articles that have gained cult following status. One site, in particular, was so inflammatory as to discuss “fat girls” not being worthy of love, and offered advice on how to teach fatties their place by reinforcing their worthlessness, and pulling the twinkies out of their mouths while telling them they’re stupid. It also advises readers to stop “banging” cows because to do so was slumming and would ultimately damage men’s own self-worth… While the author hoped to be inflammatory and draw more traffic with as much shock and cringe-worthy language as possible (no I will not include the link and send more people to read that garbage), the comments section… well, let’s just say the true story of acceptance unfolds in the comments section.  There readers are greeted with gems like “I won’t even talk to a chubby if I think she has her eye on me” and “You made yourself an undateable loser by sitting at home and stuffing food in your piggy face”.

Wow.

I’m glad I put a little body armor on before waddling into those trenches. And, of course, by body armor I mean extra pounds.

People look at me and see what they want to see, I know. I have cellulite and stretch marks… places that round out where they should, at the very least, probably remain flat, and a face that I’m told often enough is ‘pretty’ while the person complimenting me ignores the other 5 feet of “train wreck” that occurs from the neck down. This is not new to me. I’m used to trying to stand in the back of a crowd so as not to block someone’s view, make sure any walkway is wide enough for my hips, and wear clothes that, at the very least, try to make the most of any positive physical traits. I could pretend that I am recklessly self-confident because I know my value is worth more than a number on a scale, but the truth is – I’m not. The idea of getting naked in front of another person is still sometimes terrifying.

And while most who judge me don’t know my story or my struggles, it is easy for them to assume I choose this life. The comments and insults I hear are because of my own poor choices, right? They think I choose this by refusing to get out and be active… eating my emotions while pining for the slimmer, more athletic build I used to have… finding other “pigs” and “slobs” to affirm and validate all those unhealthy decisions I must be making. There are neither enough hours in the day or compassion pills to pass around in order to change the minds of the masses. Even if I could, the effect would only be temporary… It would be easy to talk about my health and the impact it has on my weight, or the fact that I love being active and do as much as I can whenever I can. Still, no matter what I write or say, the sad truth is that behind every supportive person waiting to listen and care, there are two or three others waiting to tear people down. There are entire blogs written by men whose posts are full of rallying cries for males of the world to unite and “FAT SHAME – Save a Life!”

Would I like for someone to see every bumpy, imperfect inch of me, review it carefully and honestly say that they can love me just as I am? Touch my skin where it’s not young and smooth and tell me they know these scars are just badges of honor for difficult trials I made it through? Make me feel like I’m as beautiful as any beauty queen that ever accepted a crown and walked across a stage? Feel treasured and sexy even though I am not the ideal shape or in ideal shape? Of course!! What woman wouldn’t want those things?? Will that be factual and true of my life? Who knows. I deserve love, however, and joy, and for others to treat me with respect for the whole person I am, not the just the exterior package they quickly assess and dismiss as unworthy…

There’s a lot of talk about acceptance today. It’s a trending tagline attached to various topics and with good reason. Acceptance isn’t about agreeing with someone all the time. It isn’t about changing yourself to be more like them. It doesn’t usually require much change at all, come to that.  In fact, if you look it up, one definition merely states that it has to do with positive welcome and belonging. Positive welcome. Belonging. How much better would the world be if we could each practice a bit more of that every day? I wonder how much differently I would’ve felt if the gentleman with the roving eye had merely smiled at me and went on about his day instead of making a disgusted face after sizing me up in all my curviness… Learning acceptance doesn’t require a realignment of our beliefs or values as some people seem to believe, it merely suggests we are all of us worthy and valued and deserve to be treated that way.  Regardless of the weight of the baggage we’re hauling through life…

PLEASE feel free to comment!! But *note* that this is only a space for open, considerate conversation. Nastiness not tolerated.  🙂

Random Thoughts and Conquering Fears

Well, 2015 is in full swing and things around here are finally getting back into a sort of rhythm… of the somewhat random variety.  We’ve been hermits for a couple of months while trying to get hubs back to full health, and although that is an ongoing journey we’re not going to give in to the negativity that keeps trying to weigh us down.  We’ll continue to keep a positive attitude that healing will come.  I put on my getting-down-to-business boots and mean to kick it in the butt if necessary; negativity breeds worry and fear, so they have no place in this house!  Most of my schtuff came to a screeching halt after his accident so it’s strange trying to find my feet in a schedule that has been completely upended… Tomorrow is my first work-related outing in quite a bit and I’m looking forward to getting out and getting the year moving along.  It should prove an interesting day since the Prez is making a state visit and will be in two of the exact areas I need to visit around the time I’ll be traveling there.  Hmm.  Having a couple of alternate routes will probably serve me well since I have NO idea what type of traffic control is planned to protect the motorcade.  That being said, it will be an even further jolt out of this weird schedule complacency if I can’t take my usual route… so I’m gonna choose to see it as an opportunity for adventure!

After being away from the blog for so long I’ve also been weighing the pros and cons of taking a different route here.  It was inevitable, I suppose, given the propensity to create resolutions in December and January.  I’ve decided that ultimately the format will likely stay the same, at least for now.  There are too many Pinterest projects to try my hand at and share on “Try It Out Tuesday”, so that will definitely remain in the mix.  I also enjoy starting conversations with people about ME/CFS and the trials and challenges of dealing with that, so whenever it’s comfortable revealing that raw and vulnerable side I will visit those topics and share.  Photography is also something that won’t be going anywhere… since that’s what I do.  haha!  The question for the new year is: How can I stick to the plan of writing each week, sharing what’s going on here to possibly inspire someone else, and be transparent and authentic about the struggle of life without abandoning the mission five or six months down the road?  Not sure.  Like any plan made at the start of a year, there’s always the possibility that those goals will drop off as the weeks go by…  Guess the best thing at this point is silence my doubts, give it my best, stay motivated and healthy, and keep the “To-Do” list in a prominent place so I have a visual reminder to make time to share the journey!

dream big fear quote

What are your plans for the year?  Do you have big dreams?  Perhaps a bottomless Goodreads list of books like me?  I’ve finished my first book of the year, but I don’t know if I’ll finish the other 49 I’ve promised myself.  Do you have a craft project sitting in a box somewhere that hasn’t been touched in a month (or longer) because you lost the motivation or heart?  Yep.  Ask hubby and he’ll tell you I have quite a few unfinished art projects waiting for me to complete.  Business plans?  New recipes to try?  Yes and yes!  My list is all over the place for 2015, it would seem… But that’s part of the beauty of it all!  There’s no purpose served by trying to set a limit to dreams.  Dreams should be big … and usually a little scary.  When something looks frightening it’s easy to put it off or give it up entirely – I get it!   When you do, however, it’s an injustice to your growth and potential.  Be fearless this year!  Go out and climb the proverbial mountain you’ve been meaning to climb.  Find something that will renew your passions and let it motivate you to achieve something amazing.  Maybe even something that scares ya a bit…

There is a seemingly endless supply of quotes about overcoming fear and many of them are inspirational and true.  I’m going to leave you with a couple of my favorites for you to think about as we move into the middle of the month.  There’s still plenty of time to get your 2015 ‘To-Do’ list ready, so my challenge to you (and for me!) is this:  Be fearless and make this year amazing!

web fear mind killer quote
Without My Net

Be fearless and brave in the new year!!
~h

The Most(ly) Wonderful Time of the Year

The end of a year marks a period of reflection and planning for some. A pause to evaluate all that has occurred, a time for introspection to take stock of how the year has changed you, an inventory of the blessings and struggles faced over the past 365 days, usually capped off by ideas and promises made in secret or aloud about the ways that the next 52 weeks will be an improvement.

2014 sucked. I’ve spent the last week or so trying to come up with a message full of hope and positivity with only good things to say about 2014, but each time I sat down to write it the words wouldn’t come. That sort of fa-la-la-la-la wasn’t true, from my perspective, and it felt forced and inauthentic to extol the virtues of a year that brought joy, yes, but served next to a huge steaming pile of crap. So. How to write in such a way that it was honest and raw about the pain while still conveying the gratitude I felt each time I was presented with blessings that are still abundant…? The answer is in the question. Just. Write. Honestly.

When here for my last post I was at a low place and thought, incorrectly, that the fates would have pity and the tide would turn bringing joyful balance to the year. In the 8+ months prior I had lost two jobs; tried to come to terms with letting go of the dream of children; said goodbye, from many states away, to a grandfather I had not been able to spend any significant and meaningful time with in over a decade; attended several funerals within a couple of months, one of which was for one of my oldest and dearest friends (only 41 years old!) and the loss of which still reduces me to tears; watched helplessly as some family and loved ones endured heartbreaking circumstances and illness; and struggled to be supportive of my husband through exceedingly long hours and pain… all while dealing with my own physical limitations. The past couple of blog entries have even touched upon most of these issues, whether briefly or in much more intimate detail. The world is full of sorrow and strife, however, and untold numbers of people deal with pain and adversity much greater than mine, so I tried to quit my whining and march forward with new resolve. By the middle of October I was beginning to think that life, while certainly not without lows, had at least stabilized to a baseline average. I was so wrong…

At the beginning of November my husband was rear ended in a collision on his way to work one morning. The 8 weeks since have been some of the toughest we’ve ever faced. He has physically been unable to work, reducing our income to $0 (I’m two jobs down, remember?) and his pain has been quite fierce. We dumped everything from savings into our checking account, praying it would see us through until the doctors gave him consent to return to his job, and began to face our mailbox with trepidation rather than indifference. Each bill that came in was another hit to our finances and each week we incurred new debt with trips to doctors and specialists. The physical and emotional toll has been wearisome, but the psychological has exacted its own form of torture. In the midst of all of that, we discovered that I have a cardiac arrhythmia that likes to make itself felt throughout my chest, and that brought a new level of anxiety… Particularly since the friend lost in January might have passed away due to complications with an arrhythmia. *sigh* The holiday season was in full swing, but seemingly overnight we became Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch all rolled into one!

Christmas is usually, for me, one of the most wonderful times of the year. I love wandering around stores while Christmas music is playing, giving gifts that I’ve found or created, spending time with family, decorating and wrapping presents, finding ways to bless others as I’ve been blessed… This year had none of those things. Being surrounded by consumerism when I had no money to spend pushed me to tears more than once, neither of us felt the least bit “Christmas-y” at all, and dear hubby and I were afraid of wasting gas on unnecessary trips out making us hermits. It was the least holly jolly holiday we had spent together since we met, and that’s saying a lot considering some of the hardships we’ve faced… It is incredibly humbling and heartbreaking to find out my spirit is capable of shattering that easily!

When friends posted pictures on social media with their lovely trees, happy smiles and brightly colored packages, my chest would ache and a lump would form in my throat. The selfish creature inside would scream, “This isn’t fair!” Like life ever is… So, rather than be pessimistic party poopers throughout the season of joy, we hung around like a sequestered jury of two – separate from the world, in a tiny depressed bubble with a separate reality.  Our world shrunk considerably and a fun night out consisted of visiting the local discount grocery store to find a side dish for something fished out of our deep freezer. When you’re using powdered milk because you can’t justify buying fresh, you know money has gotten tight. It’s true that Christmas is not about any of the things I was missing – my heart knew that all along – but it was a constant struggle with my nature to adjust to the changes we faced. It took a little convincing, but my head finally got with the program realizing, as Dr. Seuss so cleverly pointed out, “Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

So began the transformation of my thinking.
monkey bars

Had I not spent much of this year pushing back against negativity and darkness? Where was my positive attitude now? Did it disappear under the onslaught of circumstances we seemed destined to endure? No! Burdens might have followed us throughout 2014 – that side of crap I was referring to earlier – but I didn’t have to let them bury me alive. Even in the midst of a storm there is beauty to behold and gratefulness to be had. If anything, I was the one burying things. Burying my joy when the two of us had a good day with less pain, denying the small pleasures of the sun on my face and the abundance of time I had been given with my husband who had been working 60-70 hours each week. I was offered a job, that may not offer any real hours for several months, but will ultimately be wonderful and fulfilling… We still had heat, light and food, love enough to warm up the grinchiness that tried to overtake us, and riches that money never could’ve purchased anyway. It is only in darkness that we can fully see the light… and I didn’t have to close my eyes to the light.  It’s inevitable that each of us will fall, be knocked down and know strife, but how we choose to handle it is really what sets us each apart from the other. My life is already full to the brim with physical problems I have no way to control – that will never have to mean that I should choose to play the victim. This year has scarred and beaten me down, but isn’t the only real question whether or not to rise again?  How to do that when all of the past year had such a hold??  “Let it go, let it go!”  Maybe that movie Frozen had it right all along…

maya angelou quoteIf you had some tough times in 2014, let it go and move forward…  Face all of the hard times that come your way with grace. Be safe and start the year with joy and hope. Begin anew with love. Don’t lose sight of all the things you have, even when something is lost, and give thanks. Being grateful is a choice we make each day, and sometimes only by changing our grumbles into gratitude do we remember that the troubles we face are as transient as everything else. It sounds sappy and sweet like a Pinterest picture, but it’s true. Find the joy in every day, distance yourself from negativity – make the choice of gratitude. Time is not unlimited and there may never be another chance or do-over, so make 2015 the best you can!

So. Here we are at the end of one and the beginning of another.  My choice is to end AND begin the same as I wrapped up my last post – the same way Uncle Stevie (Stephen King) wrapped up the story story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption… With hope.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

beach rainbow

xoxo & best wishes for the new year~
h

The Mask of “I’m Fine”

When this blog began I decided to only write that which is true.  Truth as it applies to my life and my circumstances.  I wanted transparency instead of platitudes or cliché.  To approach topics without shying away from painful admissions, if relevant, and to hopefully inspire others (and maybe inspire myself) to be brave.

Perhaps I was overreaching and the loftiness of the goal set me up for failure.  Part of the reason my posts have been few and the time between each long is because life has been more lemons than lemonade of late.  That is not to say that there are no silver linings!  There are lots of things to be thankful for – I am full of gratitude and completely aware of the blessings in the life I lead… However, heavy clouds sometimes take a while to dissipate or can randomly scuttle across the sun in the midst of a bright day.  This year has brought a great deal of darkness and days I feel unable to reach the light no matter how brightly it shines.

Sun hidden by clouds
… clouds sometimes take a while to dissipate or can randomly scuttle across the sun in the midst of a bright day.

Although I don’t mean to resort to acting the hermit, it happens at times.  Those who know me well are aware of the health challenges I face and (hopefully) understand that any given day can bring physical challenges that make it easier to remain in one place and try to recover or conserve energy as needed.  While that is the single biggest reason I fall off the grid for days at a time, it isn’t the only challenge that prevents me from being a social butterfly, unfortunately, and lately I’m more hermit than human.  Let me first apologize for my absence – I miss you all dearly – and second, let me attempt to explain.

Chronic illness can help a person master the skill of deception – wear the mask of “I’m fine”.  Ask anyone you know that endures continual pain or physical ailment and they will probably tell you that dealing with those issues helped them, at least at some point, become more adept at “I’m fine”.  When I have to go somewhere on a less than wonderful day, I will usually try to act livelier than I really feel.  Admittedly, it is a risk… The energy necessary to pull off “I’m fine” will often significantly reduce the duration of my outing, but it keeps uncomfortable questions at bay.  The more recent weight on my shoulders and in my heart is not as easily masked, to my chagrin, and necessitates that I stay away from people in any capacity or be willing to deal with those questions firsthand.  It doesn’t allow for masks and hides from no one.  The face it wears is evident no matter how much makeup applied, how expertly crafted the smile put on, or how clever the tactical diversions I employ.  It is the face of a woman who has no children of her own.  The face of a woman who grew up in a large family, dreamed of sharing one with her husband, and wakes up every morning alone.  One who goes to bed without having kissed tiny hands and feet or listened, exhausted, for plaintive cries in the middle of the darkest night.  I am that woman, this is the reality I have come face to face with this year, and the revelation has broken something within me that I fear will never be whole again.

There is no way to tell people you can’t leave the house because you cry each day.  Heck – my family and friends know I cry about everything anyway, so it would hardly be a reason to stay home.  It’s just who I am!  It’s so much a part of me that each time I work a wedding I manage to get choked up standing behind a camera while doing my job… even though they are people I didn’t meet before that day!  lol!  More sensitive than just about any person I know, it’s not unusual for me to get teary over things that others dismiss without a second glance.  Yet, those are tears, no matter how embarrassing, that I don’t mind sharing with the public eye.  Sure, it’s not always socially acceptable, and yes – I definitely receive strange looks sometimes… but knowing the sensitivity is there, unavoidable, also lends me a certain kind of strength.  Will I cry about things no one will understand?  Yes, but it has been happening my whole life and is expected under a certain set of circumstances, so I just accept it and go on.  The recurring nature of it has built its own layer of callus as a type of self-preservation.  The crying I’ve been doing lately is different.  It’s not sensitivity crying and it’s not to share.  It’s the kind of crying that can only occur alone, where no one can hear the anguish in choking sobs that happen at the drop of a hat, while watching a diaper commercial on television or looking at someone’s family pictures on social media… Alone – where no one else has to see the ugliness of it.  And it IS ugly.  This isn’t a lovely, lone tear rolling down my cheek calling to mind comparisons to Demi Moore à la Ghost.  These kind of tears require solitude.  The type only attainable while heartbroken in my pajamas at noon I can thrash and wail and no one is uncomfortably waiting out the emotional display to hear “I’m fine”…  Because I’m not.

So please understand that I didn’t want to miss your baby shower… Please know I really did want to come see you in the hospital after you welcomed a beautiful bundle of joy to the world.  My heart is full of happiness for you and your family!!  I mean that with all sincerity!  But please know that simultaneously, my heart is breaking.  And that can, at times, prevent me from sharing these moments with you while maintaining any sort of grace or showing courtesy.  There is a hole in my life that nothing else will ever be able to fill.  Not the all-encompassing love I feel for my husband, not the joy I receive for working hard for an achievement, not material possession or adventurous experience.  Some things allow for substitution with others, but this is an exchange rate that will never balance in my favor.

In my heart I hope you understand that for each time your bladder felt ready to burst or your pants wouldn’t fit, I have placed my hand upon my tummy and tried to accept that it will never feel a baby’s kick…  For every feeding when you dragged yourself awake, I was also probably awake, lying in the black of night listening to the silence of my house.  Sure, I’ll never have to worry about childproofing and vaccines and choosing the best childcare, but I will also never feel the joy of having a small child cling to my leg and call me mommy.  Never feel soft, chubby hands pat my face with utter devotion, never kiss boo-boos or sing “ABC’s”,  never rejoice and cry and worry for a child of my own.  I will never hear a toddler’s laughter or see a teenager’s angst between these walls, and this year has been about coming to terms with that.  Sometimes I have to think, if being a parent is the hardest job in the world… being a mother without a child must rank right up there.

So, if I have seemed distant or missed an important milestone in your life, please be patient with me.  I’m working on a new face that is quite a bit more difficult than the last and I don’t have a template to go from.  Nothing I have experienced has prepared me to wear something like this and nothing in my closet seems to match… It’s transparent, you see, and makes no apologies for things that cannot be changed and hurts I cannot hide.  This mask is merely my face as I learn to live with this new view for the future.  And although I’m not fine right now, I hope some day I will be….

Hope
The mask is merely my face, and although I’m not fine right now, I hope some day I will be….

When You’re Naked and Afraid

Naked is all the rage.  There are reality shows designed around the concept; all types of media using skin to sell everything from fast food to clothing; stores offering organic (naked) food options; social media feeds full of explicit, unadorned thoughts and opinions… Naked is the new black.

Naked makes me afraid.  Not the “stripped bare with my hiney hanging out” kind of naked.  (Although that is potentially frightening as well and something that no one wants to see!)  No, I’m talking about the “stripped bare to show you a piece of my soul” naked.  The kind that makes a person simultaneously proud they are brave enough to share a piece of themselves and ashamed of something they kept hidden in the first place.  I have a lot of things that never see the light of day.  Like many folks, there are a variety of reasons for stuffing these thoughts or transgressions into nooks and crannies.  Sometimes it’s as simple as being unique and deciding not to speak out against the majority… Other times, a fleeting thought that is cruel or unflattering and would reveal a less kind and correct version of me.  Underneath all the surface gunk, however, I think everyone has poisonous things secreted away hoping no one will ever see.  Have you wondered what happens if too many of the darker thoughts end up suppressed?  I was reading a Stephen King book one day when a metaphor regarding this scenario crystallized for me, so it’s only appropriate that I quote directly from the master himself.

Everyone has a well within...
Everyone has a well within…

“People’s minds, particularly the minds of children, are like wells – deep wells full of sweet water. And sometimes, when a particular thought is too unpleasant to bear, the person who has that thought will lock it into a heavy box and throw it into that well. He listens for the splash… and then the box is gone. Except it is not, of course. Not really. Flagg, being very old and very wise, as well as very wicked, knew that even the deepest well has a bottom, and just because a thing is out of sight doesn’t mean it is gone. It is still there, resting at the bottom. And he knew that the caskets those evil, frightening ideas are buried in may rot, and the nastiness inside may leak out after a while and poison the water… and when the well of the mind is badly poisoned, we call the result insanity.”

– Stephen King, The Eyes of the Dragon

I’m not insane… no mater how much darkness I might have tucked away.  It seems fairly important that we establish that before going any further.  Let me also stress that there is not any implication being made about you and your mind.  Okey-dokey?  Good deal.

Conceptually it’s pretty powerful though, huh?  It is a kind of crazy to bottle up every. little. thing.  Opening one of those caskets and baring it to another soul might be a freeing experience… but it also has the potential of being fraught with fear and anxiety.  When held up to the light that stark lack of adornment is oftentimes ugly.  Messy.  Objectionable.  So we squirrel it away – another splash in the well of the mind.  We breathe a puff of a prayer on the dice and roll ’em in the hopes that our luck limit has not been exceeded and the water quality within is still pure.  However, there is the toxicity of the ‘thing’.  Certainly that poses an eventual problem, right?   The process of weighting down each thought or transgression and sending it to Davy Jones’ Locker must be noxious in some way, so it can’t exactly be healthy for the well in the long run, correct?

Hmm.

I’m not proposing we drop all social pretenses and niceties and start spewing a verbal lava of angst and wicked unpleasantness upon anyone that looks at us the wrong way.  Filters exist for a reason and can usually be employed with at least some success.  What I am suggesting is that sometimes it’s okay to be vulnerable.  To show a piece of something secreted away within because it isn’t spit-shined and polished until properly acceptable for all.  Maybe you should consider keeping the truly heinous schtuff under wraps… seriously.  However, not all of the things we drop in that well are necessarily “bad”.  Sure, they’re not all nuggets of wisdom or pearls of truth, yadda-yadda-yadda…  But it seems to me that perhaps there is a middle ground there.  A place where we hide things we live in fear of someone knowing, but in truth, most people wouldn’t care about one way or another.  Think of all the time and energy wasted on worries that should never take up that much space in the real estate of our minds and our hearts.  Sometimes it is genuinely permissible to… *gulp*…  be different!  To take a deep breath and go against the grain.  Disregard the trend.  To sum up:  Legitimately be … naked and afraid.

For the last year or so, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to downsize my baggage.  Take a good look at the influences in my life and chuck the negativity.  I have health issues that are incredibly exacerbated by stress so not only was it a necessary plan, it was also a welcome reprieve from some of the symptoms that had plagued me.  The journey has been “bumpy”, if you’d like to minimize the effort.  Weeds have grown up and tried to choke the path – potholes sometimes abound.  Is it worth it to keep plodding along?  Of course!  Is every day a success?  Not even remotely!  Yet there is a triumph gained when things go according to plan.  Triumphant days leave me lighter, freer, with more joy and less wasted space inside.  So when I find myself clinging to worry or harboring stress and giving it a place to fester and grow, instead of packaging it up and dropping it in the well, I’m trying to set myself free.  It doesn’t always come easily or without a price, but dragging those ugly, toxic thoughts out into the light and proving they will ultimately fail to poison me… well, winning that struggle often brings peace.

So I challenge you.  Not to go out and hurt others by turning off your filter and saying whatever hateful things come to mind.  Not to make yourself feel worse by admitting something private to an audience that will ridicule or hurt you.  And definitely not to go out and literally get naked.  lol!  Instead, I challenge you to challenge yourself and your ideas about what makes you less of a person, or unattractive, or unlovable… Instead of unleashing that vitriol within, giving it power over you that it never should have had, pull it out into the light and examine it for what it really is.  Find someone you trust and get naked by baring a bit of your soul and then pay it forward by allowing them to do the same.  Without judgement.  Without fear.  To make things easier I’ll start:

This month I:

  • watched as a loved and lovely person from my family passed away and I was unable to make the journey to see them and say goodbye,
  • struggled with health issues and tried to be strong for my husband who had his own,
  • lost a job I loved and had only recently found, and I am having trouble finding closure and am heartbroken,
  • discovered that the job loss – after being laid off from the two jobs prior – has made me feel like a failure, and my self-worth is really struggling along,
  • judged people in my head and got upset when I found out someone had done the same to me, and,
  • missed my friends and family, yet didn’t have the strength and energy to be more of a participant in life, and didn’t know how to ask them to understand.

And, since I’m trying to encourage you to dig under the surface –

  • I began to achingly come to terms with the fact that my husband and I will never become parents despite my lifelong dream of having a house full of children of my own… While dealing with this staggering realization, I have also had to confront my jealousy, envy and grief over the numerous friends, acquaintances and family I know that are celebrating children of their own and still find a way to share their joy.

How’s that for a confessional?

It hurts to have all of that going on, I’m not gonna lie.  But you know what’s even more difficult than going through it?  Reliving it again and again because I’ve tucked it inside, hidden behind the mask, forced to watch it all on the loop I allow to play over and over in my head.  It’s too much and I’m too tired.  Who has room for all that negativity anyway?  Life is too short and all that jazz.  In the words of Dory, “Just keep swimming!  Just keep swimming!”

So are you up for it?  It’s not a miracle cure and it’s not something everyone will find is easily implemented.  All of the things I listed above are still present.  Shining a light on them didn’t make them go away, nor does it take away the sting of knowing I won’t go to work tomorrow or find a plus sign on a pregnancy test next week.  These things DO take time, you know.  Is it scary?  Making changes usually is.   Will it be hard?  I’m not going to lie and say it’ll be a breeze…  The question you have to ask yourself is – will it be worth it…?

Life is messy.  That’s just a universal truth!  But you know what the great part is?  There are showers for that kind of thing.  And everyone knows you have to get naked before you can truly get clean…

 

 

Try to keep the pool clean!  :)
Try to keep the pool clean!

Did Ya Miss Me?

It has been SO LONG since I’ve been able to do anything on the blog. I’ve missed being around and missed keeping up with all the new friends I made here. Life has been rather hectic and unfortunately, during the ensuing chaos, the blog posting was one of the first things to drop off the end of my To-Do list. Sorry I disappeared like that – I hope to get back to posting on a regular basis and hope you’ll stop by and see me sometimes… Please check back in the next week or so and *fingers crossed* there will be something new to read and we can play catch-up! Sound like a plan? Great! In the meantime – please take care of you and thanks, as always, for stopping by!

~heather

Observations from an artist, photographer, and dreamer…