Monthly Archives: April 2013

A RAK a day keeps bad karma away!!

So, today I had to go for my mammogram…standard operating procedure for a 40 year old woman.  So as I was driving to the dr.’s office thinking about how my boobs were about to be smashed by some mid-evil torture device that had to have been invented by a man…I had an idea.  I was going to RAK the shit out of today.  RAK stands for “Random Act of Kindness”.   I am a regular “RAK’er” and I get great pleasure from the unexpected smile from a stranger after I just bought them a cup of coffee, or loaded groceries into an elderly shoppers car, or picking up the lunch tab for a uniformed serviceman/woman.

But today I had a different idea.  I was thinking about an article I had just read about how an overweight woman had set up her camera and took photos of strangers mocking her behind her back in public.  Upon first reading, I loved it.  Loved her strength.  Loved how she took the power away from the mean-spirited and turned it back on them by using their pictures in her blog…showing that inner ugly is FAR uglier than a few extra pounds…but after reading it again, and seeing some friend’s comments on FB about it…I stopped to rethink…”WHY does it matter?”  “Why do people care what someone else looks like?  Is it because they feel poorly about themselves and the only way to feel better is to make someone feel worse than you?”   And that…is how my mind worked this morning on my whopping 5 minute drive.

So after my boobs were turned to pancakes, I knew I was heading to the mall for a “Brave Prize” for myself.  (After my kids had big doctors appointments..which, there were LOTS and LOTS in their early years…another story for another day…, we would stop for a “Brave Prize.”  )So naturally, I figured what I went through today deserved a brave prize.  So off to Macy’s!!

But on the way there, I stopped.  I bought some post-it notes and a sharpie pen.  Then, I RAK’d my way through Macy’s leaving post-it notes that said, “YOU (yes!  YOU!) are BEAUTIFUL!”  on every single women’s dressing room mirror.  It was so fun, and I felt so sneaky! (and I maybe bought myself several awesome brave prizes in the process…) I didn’t want to be spotted…I just hope that it made at least one person smile.  And I will never leave home without post-its and sharpie again.  And it is now my mission to do at least one RAK a day.  And my new motto??  “A RAK a day keeps bad karma away!”  Now go out and RAK someone!

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Think Happy…Be Happy.

People come into our lives for different reasons.  Some are there just a short time and yet leave a huge impression on our hearts.  Others are there a lifetime, yet the mark they leave on us is smaller. Some float in and out of our lives like a life preserver coming when we need them most. Some are in our lives when things are great and fun and exciting, but then run for the hills screaming when there is a hint of trouble.  There are the people that start as a friendly face at the coffee shop or PTO and then turn into a confidante you couldn’t imagine life without.  

I certainly know people that fit in each of those categories, and my guess is that you do too. Sometimes I have to remind myself that not all friends are created equal, nor should they be. I believe every person in my life is there for a reason.  Serves some sort of purpose.  Whereas one friend may be the person I turn to when I need a shoulder to cry on, another may be the first person I want to reach out to when I need a good laugh or distraction.   One friend is the one I call when I need advice on parenting, another gives advice on fashion.  One friend I could talk to once every 6 months, but feel as close to her as a sister, and another I could talk to every single day but not feel as strong of a connection.  

And there are people that leave an impression on us and they don’t even know it.  There is a woman that I photographed with her family in October who was battling an aggressive breast cancer that had metastasized again.   ( I am a photographer and I offer free family sessions to those battling cancer or other chronic illnesses.)  I found out yesterday that she is now at home with hospice and that her fight will most likely be over very soon.   I wish I had been able to tell her what an amazing person I found her to be.  Such a beautiful woman with a loving husband and a 6 year old daughter who couldn’t possibly understand what it meant to her mom that day to be walking through the woods in the beautiful fall leaves, not knowing if she would see fall leaves again…The woman smiled all day…even when the camera was not pointed in her direction.  She was happy to have that day.   She affected me in ways I cannot explain, and I won’t even try.  But today, knowing how close she is to losing her fight, it made me want to fight for her.  So I scheduled my mammogram, I put on some music, and I changed my attitude from “Ugh!  I hate that I have to do laundry AGAIN, and do the dishes AGAIN, and why can’t someone else ever take the garbage out?!?”  To  “Wow.  I love that I am here to wash my children’s clothes and marvel in how they are growing, and smile at the dirty knees knowing that means they were outside having fun.  I love that I get to be here to clean the dishes off after a lively meal where there was conversation and goofy jokes..and maybe even some potty talk thrown in.” (notice I didn’t mention the garbage?  Still haven’t found the good in taking the garbage out…but I am working on it.)   

For me, at least for today, it is all about perspective.  I can begrudge the little chores and mundane activities of daily life, or I can look at each little chore as a gift.  As a reminder that I am still here.  I am still alive.  And I am so very grateful that I made it through to the other side.  The sign I recently bought and hung up says it all:   Think Happy… Be Happy.   Sometimes it really can be that simple.  

 

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Coffee, puzzles and conversation.

It was a Sunday.  My husband, the kids, and my father in law had left to go swimming and my mother in law and I sat at their dining room table drinking coffee and doing a jigsaw puzzle together.  It was our “Thing”.  My MIL had emphysema and was on oxygen 24/7 and didn’t leave the house much.   So when we went to visit, her and I would do puzzles together and chat.  About the kids, politics, her love of antiques, the weather, you name it.

But this Sunday was different.  I can’t remember what started the conversation.  I am just glad we had it.  We were doing a puzzle of Times Square.  It was lively and fun and showed people happy and excited.  I couldn’t help but notice the contrast, and it made me sad.  And somehow, we started talking.  REALLY talking.  And my story came out.  She knew parts of it, the bits and pieces that I shared with the world.  She knew, obviously, about my surgeries, and how sick I had gotten, etc.  But she had no idea about my depression, suicidal thoughts, and how DONE I had been.  So I told her everything.  Every syllable of pain I had lived in for 5 years came spewing out in between tears and sips of coffee.  When I was done, she looked at me, her eyes misty, and said, “I get it.”

Three words spoke VOLUMES to my heart and to my soul.  I KNEW she got it.  She was DONE.  She was tired of being attached to her “leash” (oxygen tube), she was tired of fighting for each breath, she was tired of being sick all the time.  And *I* got it.  

That conversation was a turning point for us.  From that moment forward, I felt an intense bond to her that I cannot explain.  The saying “misery loves company” is true in a sense.  It isn’t  that I loved that she was miserable, I just loved that she understood what most had not. And I know she felt the same.  Unless you have dealt with horrific chronic pain/illness, you just cannot understand.  And we knew that we both “got it”.   She looked at me that day and said,  “Living and being alive are two different things.”  And she was so right.  For so many years I had been alive, but I had not been living.  But I had a second chance that she would not be getting.  She knew there was no getting better for her.

So then it was her turn to open up to me.  She told me her wishes.  Told me all about her living will and how she just couldn’t deal with one more thing.  She lacked quality of life and she was exhausted.  It may have been the saddest, and most memorable conversation of my life.  

I may not still have my mother in law, as she died a few short weeks later, but I have that puzzle.  And I have the memory of that day so etched into my heart that I will never forget it. 

 

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Writer’s block…or is it?

I have been struggling lately with posting.  Some days I feel the words flowing through my fingers on their own.  I don’t even have to think about it.  And other days I feel like I think about what to write all day and cannot come up with anything.  My goal was to write on this blog daily.  Tell a part of my story each day and it was finally all out.  But I am learning through this process, that maybe some parts of my story need to stay with me a bit longer.  There are parts that I am maybe not done with…so those I need to keep private a bit longer.

I do know that this exercise in anonymous “confessions” has helped a great deal.  I have just a few readers, and that is plenty for me now.  Knowing that someone is reading my story (the bits I have put out there so far) is helping me…If I can help even ONE person feel less alone in their depression, I am happy. 

I read a blog a few minutes ago that made me sad.  And worried.  And feeling a bit helpless.  I read of a young teens desire to give up.  And it brought me back to where I was at that age and how I felt the same.  I was done with life.  It hadn’t brought me anything but pain and insecurity and misery.  But now, I look back and am so grateful that I made it through that time.  I am 40 now.  And happy.  VERY happy.  And that is something that I NEVER thought was going to be possible.  Ever.  It wasn’t an easy road to happiness…it wasn’t a smooth ride.  But I did it.  I got here.  And it is a huge accomplishment.   

So, to you out there, if you are reading this (you know who you are)  I hope you know that I am here rooting for you.  I am praying for strength and happiness for you.  I am giving you a big virtual hug and wishing you the best.  Please don’t give up, please know you are not alone and if someone in the cyber world, who has never met you before, cares this much about what happens to you, you have to know that there are people in your every day life that care even more.  Reach out to them.  Talk to someone.  And if you can’t, you can talk to me. I wish you well.  I wish you strength.  I wish you happiness.   And most of all, I wish you life.  

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“I hope you have a daughter/son just like you!”

“I hope someday you have a daughter (or son) just like you!”   I am sure we have all heard it. Many of us may have even said it from time to time.  But how many of us  ever heard it with the undertones of love and pride, when we were doing something marvelous?!?!  I know I never did.  It was always with negative undertones and said when I was doing something wrong/naughty/etc.

It struck me one day, as I was saying it with disdain to my son who was (yes this is true) trying to skate board while wearing roller blades.  I was panic stricken as I stood with my back to him and just heard a THUD and a skate board fly past me down the driveway.  Luckily, the 11 year old boy-wonder was laughing and not injured.  But I was NOT laughing.  All I could think of was how lucky he was that he didn’t crack his skull open on the garage floor, break a limb, and otherwise ruin his (and our!) summer.  This child has NO fear and is always testing me.  So I said it.  With a touch of anger, a pinch of fear, and a smidge of disappointment in his lack of thinking this dangerous act through.   I looked him in the eye and with more disgust than I had intended, I said, “I hope someday you have a son JUST LIKE YOU!”   And you know what he said??? 

“ME TOO!  Because I am AWESOME!!!”

It is then that it hit me.  I will never forget that moment.  Talk about a “lightbulb moment”.  He was 100% right!!  He IS awesome.  He is fearless!  And creative!  And imaginative!  And, as stupid as it seemed to me for him to attempt such a feat, he thought it was brilliant and brave and, in his words, “amazing!”   So I took the disgust and disdain out of my voice, and said it again.  WIth love, and admiration, and awe….  “I hope someday you have a son just like you!”  And I gave him a hug.  (along with a long lecture on exactly WHY he should never attempt that again…at least without a suit of armor and strong helmet. And, preferably, while standing on a very padded surface NOT wearing roller blades and without a skateboard.)

Why is it that this saying is so often said with negativity?  Why would we tell our children that we hope they have kids like them like it is a BAD thing??  Isn’t that then just telling our children that THEY are bad?  Sending a message that they are not awesome??  But something to fear, and NOT want?  Think about it.

I heard this phrase a LOT growing up.  When my room was messy.  When I didn’t get homework in on time.  When I was late for curfew.  When I didn’t clear the table quick enough.  When I talked back to my parents.  When my sister and I were screaming at each other.  Always when I was in trouble.  Like I was such a horrible child that I was a curse to them, and so they wanted to put the curse back on me.  That they hoped I would have to suffer with a child as horrible as I was.  

And now, all these years later, I caught myself sending that SAME message.  I know some people say it out of fun, sarcastically, as a joke.  But do the children understand the joke?  Do they get that you are just kidding?  My guess is not completely.

So I have changed my attitudes.  Changed my tone.  From that point forward, I will only say that to my children out of love and pure adoration.  I DO hope they have children just like them.  Because they are AWESOME.  

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19 years ago…

19 years ago I was 21.  I was in college having the time of my life.  I loved dancing, the freedom of living away from home, and music…lots of music.  I went out dancing 5 nights a week, minimum.  It was such a release for me!  It was my happiest moments…I made sure to make friends with the DJ’s so they would play the songs I requested.  

But 19 years ago, today, is also the day that Kurt Cobain, one of my favorite musicians, killed himself.  I remember thinking, “WHY??”  and “he had everything going for him!”  But yet, I GOT it.  I understood.  I knew that just because things look awesome on the outside, didn’t mean they were miserable on the inside.  When I heard the news, I was so saddened.  The world lost an amazing man that day.  An artist.  Someone who saw the world in a way that not everyone could, and not only could he see it in this way, but he could share his vision of the world WITH the world through his music.  

As I listened to the news and the stories on the radio, I remember thinking, “Damn it.   Damn you Kurt.”  See, I had heard that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  So I kept trying to convince myself of that.  If I could convince myself that all problems were temporary, I could get myself through anything.  So that mantra went off in my head constantly.  Why couldn’t Kurt have heard that message?  Why couldn’t he have pushed through??  What could have been SO bad that he felt he was better off dead?? Forever.

Now, as I sit here 19 years later, I get it.  So much more than I wish I did.  So much better than I should.  But I do.  I get it.   I have heard that he killed himself due to horrible abdominal pains that he could not bear having forever.  He had suffered with stomach pain since childhood and some say it is the reason he started heroin.  To kill the pain.  When I first heard this, I thought, “come on, no pain is that bad.  Take pain medicine.  Deal with it.”   Then, I got toxic mega colon.

So now, 19 years later, I think of him and I am again, very saddened.  Sad that he is gone.  But also so very sad that I understand TOO well why he killed himself.  To him, this was not a temporary problem.  This was a problem he was going to have forever, and he didn’t want to live that way.  And I get it.  I was lucky enough to finally get mine diagnosed and fixed.  He wasn’t.  It could have been me.  It almost was. 

Rest in Peace Kurt.  I hope you are out of pain and still rockin’ out!  xoxo

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Reflections…

While on the outside of the well, looking in, I see reflections.  My own reflection of my physical self, of course.  But also the reflections of things normally unseen.  My emotions.  My raw, unfiltered emotions. And they are not very easy on the eye!  It is taking much longer to write my story than I had imagined.  It is more painful that I had imagined.  It is causing me to go back to a place I never wanted to revisit, and foolishly thought I wouldn’t have to.

But to tell my story, to FULLY tell it, I need to revisit those places.  And while it is therapeutic to go back to those painful places as a healed and healthy woman, it is also so very painful to see how wounded I really was.  I was on death’s door begging him to let me in.  And now, I want to go to that woman and grab her by the shoulders and shake the crazy right out of her.  But I know I can’t.  And it is very hard to watch.

I dealt with some degree of depression my entire life.  The chronic severe pain that lasted 5 years sent me so far into it I thought I would never come out.  I didn’t WANT to come out.  I couldn’t even remember what life was like as a “normal” person.  I only knew my warped sense of reality.  I hated people that didn’t have pain.  I couldn’t relate to them.  And the look of pity in their eyes made me want to claw their eyes out.  But the crippling depression didn’t leave enough energy for anger or rage.  It just turned into more sadness.  It was quick sand, and every emotion I had, no matter what it was SUPPOSED to be, turned into the sadness.  Remember the movie Neverending Story?  And he is in the swamp?  They actually referred to the quicksand as “The Sad”.  It never made sense to me until now.  It is truly what it was like.

Every morning I would lay in bed with the covers over my head wishing that today would be the day that I didn’t wake up.  Wouldn’t have to face the day.  But, alas, that day never came.  I was forced, every day, to wake up, put on my “mask” and move on.  I had to plaster on a smile and pretend nothing was wrong.  Life was GRAND!  Life was GREAT!  FANTASTIC!!  FABULOUS!!!  Because, I learned, that if I didn’t…no one cared.  I was a bother.  A bitch.  A downer.  And, being the people pleaser I was, I couldn’t stand that.  I HAD to be liked.  To be loved.  To make sure everyone was happy and comfortable all the time.  Myself be damned.

Wearing the mask was exhausting and caused me to shut down and shut everyone out.  I would let people in, but only so far.  The minute it got “real” I shut them out.  I didn’t want anyone to try to get to know the real me, because I didn’t even know who that was, but I had learned through rejection my whole life, that the real me wasn’t worth knowing anyway.  So I would shut people out and reject them before they had a chance to reject me.   This left me feeling further isolated.  More lonely.  More SAD.

I began resenting everything and everyone.  I resented my husband for not knowing that even when I said I was fine, I was far from it.  I resented my young children for needing me too much when I had nothing left to give.  I resented my mother for not loving me enough and making me feel worthy of love when I was younger…if she had, I wouldn’t feel this way, right?  I resented my father for not being more on my side.  I resented my sister for being my mother’s favorite.  I resented my friends for being able to smile and laugh and have fun.  I resented my doctors for not being able to fix me.  I resented my medication for not working well enough.  I resented my body for failing me.  I resented God for letting me feel so much pain.  I resented how bitter I had become.  I resented how difficult everything was for me.  I resented how my depression consumed me.  I resented the fact that I was still alive.

Now, that I am out of the well…and looking back at my reflection…I see the pain that was in my eyes.  No mask could have ever hidden that.  So why did no one see it?  REALLY see it??  Or, is it that they DID, and that is why I pushed them away?

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