Rock hard

Capture

I saw this tweet last night and it made me laugh. It summed up so wonderfully this past week, and really, the more I thought about it, the last 7 years. A kidney stone! Yes.

Hard. Painful. Perfect.

It’s the again-ness of life that is so hard. It’s the same stuff over and over and over and over again, until you think you can’t stand to go through it one more minute. You do, of course, because this is life and for better or worse, this is all there is. And the kidney stones?

That’s what it’s all about.

When all is said and done, moving forward gracefully, freely, and authentically in life requires the pain of letting go that which no longer serves us, even though it’s excruciatingly painful and it seems to take forever sometimes.

The past week has very nearly done me in. Personal health issues, my mother’s bottomless pit of health problems, work challenges, and the weather all gave me a run for my money this week, and I’m a little worse for wear.

The proverbial stone hasn’t passed yet, though. It’s still in there grinding away at my insides. Nothing has passed except time, ntohing has changed. All the same old stuff just goes on and on… Five years until retirement. Who knows how long my mother will hang on, or how long the cold and wind will persist in the glacial Spring awakening this year.

I keep reminding myself that nothing lasts forever, that all is well in this moment, even when it isn’t, and that there is more to life than the crap. It’s hard to see, especially when the again-ness is what is most evident lately. The hits just keep on coming, and I take them all and keep going.

So far.

I worry that there will be a point at which I can’t keep going. I worry about what would happen to my mom if I became unable to care for her, and the cats. I feel sad about the idea that I might never live in my little house again, or that I might never know what it’s like not to have to work so hard all the time.

I have been grasping the ledge all week, barely hanging on, hoping to pull myself up and find my footing again. I’ve been looking for and clutching the handholds – friends, books, sunshine, hockey (Steve Yzerman is coming back to Detroit!), online connections, music – and still this morning, I’m grasping for hope.

This difficult week – this kidney stone – is passing. There will be more stones, though – difficult days, difficult weeks, difficult years. That’s life. It’s hard. Everything seems to happen over and over, again and again.

Each passing takes something from me and leaves a void. I have to really talk fast to the idealist in me, who is very, very discouraged – to keep her going, to convince her not to give into cynicism or  hopelessness. To convince her to let go of her idea about the way things should be, and to find the joy and reason for hope in what is.

It ain’t easy, let me tell you. Honestly, I’m tired of the pain and the again-ness. I’m ready for freedom and fun and all the good things that I sort of envision as just outside the field of possibility right now. I feel certain that I’ve mastered pain and that I’m due something else.

Ha Ha!

I know that’s not how it works. When I’m in my right mind I know that life is less about being happy and more about being of use. If I’m thinking clearly, I know that I am just fine, and it is just the story my ego has made up about my poor beleaguered self and how bad she has it that is making me believe anything other than the truth of my fundamental well-being.

So I guess that stone is on its way out. There will be another and another after that. Sooner rather than later, I’m sure. Each one provides me with an apportunity to let go of something else I no longer need, and in that light, I should be looking forward to the pain.

Ha!

Not quite there, yet. But further along than I was, so that’s good enough.

If you celebrate – Happy Easter! Here’s to the resurrection of us all.

Three little words

I’m clear about who I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going, and what I’m doing. What I realized this week, though, is that isn’t the whole story, especially at work. What matters in that arena is how others perceive me – correctly or incorrectly – and to a large degree, that isn’t up to me. I suppose that’s true in all areas of life, but to me it matters less in those other areas. I can do without friends; I can’t do without a job. Not now, anyway.

Acme Health Services hired a new Public Relations person, or in our industry-speak, a Public Information Officer, a couple of months ago. She’s really fabulous and enthusiastic and young. She’s brimming with great ideas and on fire with the desire to succeed in this job and spread the great news about AHS. I’m excited to work with her. She is not my boss, but I take direction from her regarding many of my job responsibilities, as I do the website and social media and all the promotional publications.

We went to a class together on Thursday to learn about using Instagram for business. I’ve wanted to add an Instagram account for a long time, but couldn’t really wrap my head around how our business would translate to that platform, but our new PIO has a great idea about how to go about it and she got admin staff approval and so we’re full speed ahead! The class was in a town nearby, and lunch was provided. I was looking forward to learning something new, and also the chance to get to know my new co-worker a little better outside the office.

So, the first thing I noticed when I got there was that I was by far the oldest person in the room – by at least 20 years. Whatever, right? Being older doesn’t make a difference in my mind, except I’m more experienced in business than any of these other people. A positive, as I see it. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, I’m thinking, cuz were all just trying to navigate this new way of marketing, so what does age or experience have to do with any of it? We’re all beginners.

And the fact that my new co-worker is at least 20 years younger than me? Why should that matter? We’re just people working for the same company, wanting to do the best job we can. We want the same thing, so we’ll work together! It’ll be great! I’m great! She’s great! We’re going to be GREAT!

Yeah, so I can be pretty naive.

First, before the class started and we’re eating our lunches, the two young women at my table, my co-worker and someone who had taken the third chair, knew each other, and are talking, talking, talking, about their kids and all the people they know in common and blah blah blah blah blah. I smile and eat my lunch, pretending that I’m listening and that I care and that it doesn’t bother me at all that they are completely ignoring me.

Then class started and it’s okay, though I actually knew most of the information the “social media expert” was giving us. Still nice to be out of the office for a while and to have lunch out, not something I get to do very often anymore. And then two things happened simultaneously:

  1. I felt sick. Really sick. Did I mention the name of the restaurant is the Cheese House? Cool! Did I mention I’m lactose-intolerant? Yeah, you can guess where this is going, right? It wasn’t pretty.
  2. When I excused myself, with a smile on my face, and absolutely no indication of why I had to leave, my co-worker looked at me in a way that let me see exactly how she sees me: old and irrelevant. See ya.

And so began one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in my life, and I had to get out of there FAST. Fortunately, the class had run over the scheduled time at this point, so other people were leaving, too, and I scurried out of the room and straight to the bathroom. I was in there for about 20 minutes, trying to get my breath and waiting for the dizziness to pass, and when it did finally, I slunk out of the restaurant and out to my car, which was not very far away, fortunately, and collapsed in the driver’s seat. I sat there for another 20 minutes or so, and when I felt like I could drive, I headed out toward my town. As I passed a hospital on the way, though, I started to feel dizzy again, so I pulled into the ER parking lot and contemplated going in.

Not my first panic attack though, fortunately, so I knew I probably wasn’t dying, and I sat in the car for another 10 minutes or so. Finally the pain in my chest, the tingling in my limbs, the sweating and the dizziness passed and I put the car in gear and headed back out again.

One of my favorite old songs came on the radio and I was singing along, trying to feel better, until all of a sudden I was overcome with memories of when that song was popular, when I was young, and pretty quickly I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe and I had to pull over again, and wait until the worst of it passed. I started out again finally, cried all the way to my office parking lot, pulled myself together, walked in and continued my day.

Exhausted. Bone weary. But I was there. Damn it. Because that’s who I am. That’s age and experience. I’m committed and loyal and I see things through. I had work to do and even though I felt like crap, I went back and did what needed to be done.

As the afternoon went on, I kept thinking of all I wanted to say to that super fantastic clever and bright young woman:

I WAS YOU.

25 years ago, I was you. I was the super fantastic clever and bright young woman ready to set the world on fire and LIVE A FABULOUS LIFE! Despite years of depression, despite utter fall-on-my-face disasters in other areas of my life, I was always good at my work and for the 5 years I had my business, I was golden. I was smart and innovative and creative and soaked up information like a sponge and turned it into Wonderful! Brilliant! Amazing! projects for my clients. And when I came to Acme Health Services 20 years ago they were thrilled to have me, and I was amazing, and wonderful, and brilliant then, too, until…well, I don’t know.

When did I get old? When did I become irrelevant?

I didn’t imagine it. It was there. It was in her eyes and in the eyes of all the other 15 year-olds in the class. I said something I felt was relevant to what was being discussed, and they all turned around and looked at me like they were amazed I could speak, including the teeny-bopper conducting the class.

So, I’m comfortable in my skin, and I’m confident in my abilities and ready to go everyday. What worries me, is that it may not be enough. As someone pointed out to me the other day, I’m almost 60 (sounds so much older than 57, doesn’t it – gave me chills) and I guess there is probably a lot I don’t know about the generations behind me and how they think.

They’re running the show now, and that is as it should be, I guess, but they don’t appear to be interested AT ALL in what went on before they came along, or how much experience someone older has; in fact, I think most of them think there must be something wrong with someone who stayed in a job for 20 years. An eternity! My god, how could you stand it?

So there were other factors in the panic attack (one being the never-ending plumbing issue we’ve been dealing with at home that FINALLY was resolved yesterday after much stress and aggravation all week), and I’m going to address the 24/7 care-giving stress issue with my doctor in May. I’m thinking some good drugs, but I’m open to whatever she suggests. I’ve had my fill of ill-timed panic attacks and almost constant anxiety.

I have no idea what to do about work, though, and I’m really afraid at some point the bean counters are going to look at me and look at her and think, why do we need both of them? This is not the first time I’ve experienced the age handicap at work, and I know a lot of people have gone through the same thing. I get that my experience is not unique.

Somehow, I just never thought it would happen to me. Naive, I know. But that’s who I am – ever the optimist, ever the idealist, wanting always to believe the best about people and hoping that things will work out if I just work hard enough and try as hard as I can.

So, back to be here now, and one day at a time, and just doing the best I can. Whatever is going to happen will happen and I’ll deal with whatever it is.

Ultimately that’s all there is, isn’t it? Dealing with whatever is. Doing the best we can. Hoping for the best.

Life goes on.

 

The real deal

I’m tired. My heart hurts all the time lately, and I don’t know whether that’s anxiety or something more deadly, and it scares me, but I don’t know what to do about it. Most days my stress level is through the roof, and I’m sure my blood pressure is higher than my doctor would like it to be, but I don’t know what to do about that, either. I go to the gym, I get plenty of exercise, I watch what I eat, I do all I can to take care of myself. There just isn’t much time and there’s so much to do and to worry about. There is so much that is just not the way I would like it to be.

Stress at work, stress at home. Even the weather is stressful. Winter just won’t quit, and I’m worried about the snow on the roof, keeping the driveways at both houses open, and about possibly losing power this weekend in the predicted ice storm and what I’m going to do with my mom if that happens.

There is no time at which I feel on top of things; no time that I can take a deep breath and just be. I try so hard to embrace it all, to let it all be what it is and be okay with what it is; to keep my mind and my heart open and present in each moment. Sometimes, though, even that is stressful. I find myself thinking ahead or worrying about something in the future and I think Damn! I blew it!

Lately, it’s when I start feeling sorry for myself, and/or beating myself up for not being who I want to be in every moment, that the alarms start to go off. Thank goodness. I didn’t have those limits when I was younger; those red flags that tell me now that I’m headed for trouble, that I’m overwhelmed and sliding down the slope straight into the abysss.

Yesterday I heard the alarms, saw the red flags, and instead of ignoring it all and trying to soldier on, I said wait a minute. What do I need? I sat still and listened, and the answer was: TIME. So I took the afternoon off from work, and got a couple of big things done at home, and I felt better about the weekend and the resulting shorter list of things to do, and less overwhelmed in general, thanks to my decision to take a few hours’ vacation time.

I was not a wife or a mother when I was younger, so I get that I’ve been lucky that my time was mine mostly for the largest part of my adult life. I really try to avoid feeling sorry for myself or heeding the siren call of resentment telling me that it’s not fair that this is the way my life is now.

Of course it’s fair, and more than that, it simply is what is. Never in my life have I been clearer about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Living with and caring for my mother at the end of her life has been the hardest, but best part of my life in many ways. Despite the fact that much of the time lately it feels like it might be the end of my life, too, I know that it is the right thing to do, and the best use of my time and energy right now.

hope it’s not the end of my life, but if it is, at least I know my life will not have been wasted. Major karma between me and my mom, and I feel confident that we’ve cleared that up, and beyond that, honestly, what else do I have to show for 57 years on this planet? Nada, zip, zilch, zero. I was too caught up in faulty brain chemistry to contribute much for most of my adult life. I was becoming who I needed to be now, I guess, and I take comfort in knowing that I made it. If nothing else I was able to take care of myself and stay alive long enough to be able to take care of someone else and for me, that’s enough.

So my challenge is just to maintain my health; manage the stress as best I can, continue to do the things I know I need to do – the gym, eating properly, getting as much sleep as possible – and just keep going. Keep listening for the alarms, and watch for the red flags. Put my needs first when I need to. Meditate. Practice mindfulness as much as I can remember to. Acknowledge my gratitude as often as I can remember to.

I’ve come across several articles and blogs this week about self-care. It’s on all of our minds, whatever path we’re currently on. But writing about it, reading about it, or talking about it is not the same as doing it. Taking the afternoon off yesterday was the real thing, and it made all the difference.

What do you need right now? Listen to your heart. What is it telling you?

Patti LaBelle’s got nothin’ on me

Capture

I’ve been making some changes. Internally mostly, but externally also. You may have noticed a new name for the blog, and if you access it via the web (not via WP reader), you’ll notice a new look.

I started this blog over 10 years ago, and I’m not the same person I was at all then. Frankly, I’m not the same person I was 2 months ago, or even two weeks ago, before the snow wall and a couple of other things that have happened recently. I still drink a lot of green tea, and I’m still grateful for my life and all that daily existence on this planet teaches me, but it’s time for a broader view.

The prompt for the 12 Short Stories challenge this month is “New Me” and I’ve been thinking a lot about what my short story is going to be about, and what my story is about: the story of me and my life and how I navigate my path through it.

Non-fiction.

Last week I wrote about my idealism and how it gets me in trouble now and again. I look for the best in people and I’m often disappointed. That has everything to do with me, and my expectations, and almost nothing to do with them, as they are just living their lives, walking their own path as they see fit, and none of that has anything to do with me. None of us knows what another is here to accomplish or learn; we’re all unique and we’re all alone on our particular journey.

There is common ground, certainly, but each of us has a perspective on life that no one else on this planet has. We can tell each other how we see things – about our experience of this life – and sometimes it resonates with someone else’s experience. But we can never really know what another person is thinking or feeling or what it’s really like to walk in their shoes.

That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Two sides of the same coin, as so many things of importance are.

I have a dual nature, in that my astrological sign, Aquarius, has two rulers, unlike most of the other signs in the zodiac – Saturn and Uranus. Saturn rules time and is the taskmaster, the stern schoolmaster teaching difficult lessons. Saturn is all about structure – creating and maintaining – at all costs.

Uranus is more volatile. Uranus is all about surprise and behaves unexpectedly, powerfully, bringing change and new possibility. Uranus crushes structure, if necessary, to free the higher mind and bring about a new era. Uranus is electric.

Saturn is conjunct my natal sun, which essentially means Saturn has been sitting on my head all my life, making sure I followed the rules, towed the line and behaved as expected, i.e. lived up to my responsibilities, of which I’ve had many in my life, from the time I was very young.

Uranus resides in my natal 5th house, hanging out there with my True Node (or North Star/True North in folklore), which lights the way to my soul’s highest purpose and desire in this life. The 5th house is the house of creativity and creative expression.

Boom.

So, I’ve been towing Saturn’s line all my life – reliable, serious, studious, disciplined. I think it’s time to give more attention to the other side of the coin. Now I’m going to try a little less reliability, or more appropriately, predictability, more creativity, and more FUN. I’ll still be reliable, especially where work and my mother are concerned, cuz that’s still very much who I am, but I’m also going to give free rein to some of the other parts of me that haven’t received much attention to this point.

There’s going to be more of what I want, and less of what others expect of me from now on. More going with the flow and reveling in it, rather than dreading it and fighting against it. I’m going to work with my electric nature instead of trying to tame it. Embrace the unexpected in myself and in my daily life, rather than letting it upset me.

More rule-questioning and less rule-following.

I’ve done the dance with Saturn. I’m tired of that old tune. Time to have a go with sexy Uranus. The bad boys are always more fun, if a bit dangerous. Time for a new song and a new step.

Time for a new me.

Dispatch from the other side

280937899_2fb55aa820_o

I struggle a lot with my expectations of people. I’ve written about it here before. It’s an ongoing thing; one of the lessons I’ve grappled with since I was very young.

When I was young and people let me down, I assumed it was my fault. I thought there was something about me – I didn’t know what it was – that alienated people and I accepted that as fact. I grew up believing I was unlovable. Again, I didn’t really know why, but I took my cues from the way important people treated me – my mother, other adults, kids, and the reality that my birthmother gave me away. That seemed like proof-positive to me that I was indeed, unlovable, certainly unwanted.

I felt that way well into my 40s. Less so, perhaps, but when people treated me badly or let me down I just chalked it up to me being hard to love. I’ve lost enough friends to populate a small town. It got so it wasn’t really even a surprise anymore, just another loss. My lot in life.

My fault.

Three years of therapy and 10 years on some powerful drugs went a long way to convince me otherwise, and alleviated the depression that went along with those thoughts and feelings. I’m perhaps not the easiest person to love, but I’m not unlovable, either. No one is.

We are all worthy of love.

So now I realize that it’s not just me, but my expectations are still too high. I keep getting tripped up by them, even though I know better. Because people let each other down. That’s just what happens. As the young, mostly unhelpful, but very nice policewoman said to me last weekend:

Most people really only think about themselves.

She’s right. I would like that not to be true – about myself and other people – but I think that’s really it. It isn’t so much that we don’t care about other people – we do. In theory, and sometimes even in practice. It’s just that for the most part – for whatever reason – we don’t go out of our way for others, even people who matter to us.

Mostly.

I can think of a couple of situations in my life in which someone rose to the occasion for me and really tried to make a difference. I’d like to think I’ve done the same for others a few times, at least.

Mostly, though, we just plod along, and try to get through on our own as best we can. At least, that’s been my experience. I can think of quite literally hundreds of situations over the years in which people have let me down so completely that the thud reverberated for weeks in me. It goes the other way, too. I can think of times I let people down, especially when I was deep in the abyss of depression. No one’s perfect, and when it comes right down to it, we are all fundamentally alone.

It’s become increasingly clear to me over the years that being disappointed really has nothing to do with my friends, or co-workers or people in general; it’s all about my expectation that I should matter to anyone other than myself.

That’s the mistake I keep making. And here’s why:

I’m a people-pleaser. Always have been because of the way I grew up, mentioned above – always trying to figure out how to get people to like me/love me. Scanning every word, every movement, every expression for a hint at how to give them what they want so that maybe they’ll like me. A chameleon, changing shape and color to be pleasing to the person I was trying to connect with.

I was astonished as an adult to realize that other people don’t do that, for the most part. Some do, most don’t. No one cares what I want or need, at least not to the extent I’d like them to, even people I’m close to. They’re not trying to please me in the same way that I’m killing myself for them. While I’m knocking myself out to figure out just the right birthday or Christmas gift, or rushing to answer an email or get a card out to someone for an occasion, or worrying myself sick over why I’m not hearing from someone for a while, they’re just getting on with whatever. Not thinking about me, not worrying about me, even if they care about me. They put themselves first.

Imagine that.

I alienate people cuz I expect more than that.  I really think it’s just that simple. I kill friendships by caring too much, trying too hard. I wear people out, and I must have seemed very needy until I finally wised up. Now I think I’ve gone in the other direction, actually.

I’ve been thinking about the metaphor of the snow “wall” in my driveway (I love me a good metaphor!) and I think that’s what it represents to me – the ways in which I’m cut off from other people, mostly through my own choices and life circumstances in the last few years, but not entirely. A few people in my life have had a part in erecting that wall from their side.

Whatever.

I’m doing better at pleasing myself and worrying less about pleasing others, except when it pleases me to please someone I care about. I still get caught up in expectations, and I still get let down when I least expect it, but that’s probably just the way it’s always going to be. That’s just who I am. An idealist. And that’s what being vulnerable is all about, isn’t it? Keeping our hearts open is risky, cuz we can be hurt, but it’s also the only way to connect and heal the rifts caused by life.

It’s the only way to melt the wall. 

It won’t happen quickly, but it will happen. Life goes on. This too shall pass. We’re all just doing the best we can, including me. What’s called for is forgiveness; not blame, not anger, not shame or retribution. Just forgiveness for our broken humanness.

As with everything else, at least for me, it’s a work in progress.

Ins and outs

 

gvsc 1980-82 9_edited
Me (on the right) in college roughly 100 years ago.

I have never been cool. I’ve tried; but I just can’t pull it off. Not when I was a kid, not as a college student, not as a thirty-something, not now. I’m geeky, wear what I want, do what I want (currently within the bounds of my responsibilities at home), and I’m not at all interested in most of the things that American culture says I should be interested in.

In school, while other kids were passing notes and giggling about boys, I was reading every book I could get my hands on, and playing at home with my new microscope, or writing a new story or play. I put on puppet shows. My mother made me wear my hair cut very short, and she picked out my clothes until I was 14 or so.

Not good.

In high school I wrote poetry, and was on the student council. I was in the French club, and on the Drama and Debate teams. Total geek (or nerd, as we were called then). I worked and bought my own clothes, and my mother gave up on the hair thing. So I didn’t look like a loser anymore, but I still wasn’t cool.

Which is not to say I didn’t have good friends, and actually I got along okay with everybody in my class. I smoked, so there was common ground with the “burn-outs,” and my best friend was a cheerleader, so I had an “in” with the  “popular/jock” kids. True Aquarian–everybody was my friend. But I was still not cool, and I knew it. Sometimes it bothered me, sometimes it didn’t.

In college I was wild about computers and journalism. My roommate was cool, and I got a little “cool” benefit from her, but mostly I was really into school, but not really that into the social aspects of school. I didn’t have very many friends, but I didn’t really care that much. I got along okay with the girls on my floor, and later with my apartment-mates, and we had a lot of fun, but mostly I was more involved with the sort of obscure things that interested me, and not much into the things that went on around me.

My college boyfriend was a geek at heart, but was still trying really hard to be cool. Mostly we just did our geek stuff, and talked endlessly about computers and writing and how we were going to save the world from itself. But coolness was always very important to him. He was a “yuppie” before the term was even invented; and we just couldn’t bridge that gap. Ultimately we parted ways. It took me a while to get over it.

I have always been drawn to the people on the fringes. They were usually the people who were interested in the same things I was. The ones just trying to find their way; certain that there was more to life than all the superficial stuff going on around them. They accepted a lot in me that at the time was hard even for me to accept–depression and self-doubt, especially.

So I have been fortunate to know some extremely interesting and unusual people, and now I’m able to understand that they are the cool people, after all. They (and I) didn’t fit in with popular culture at any time, but that’s okay. For whatever reason, we had to make our own way, and when we were able to do it together that was great.

So, I’m a little past middle-aged now, and not worried anymore about being cool. I worry about being a decent human being and my health, and that’s pretty much it. I still have long hair and I still wear what I want, without worrying about whether I fit in. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

It’s okay either way.

Maybe people should worry about whether they fit in with me. Who knows, maybe those of us who are a little bit “out of it” are the “in-crowd” after all. Ultimately I think we’re all okay, and there’s room for us all on this great big planet. Cool or not, in or out. We’re all just us, doing the best we can, and that’s what really matters.

Cover your ears

This is really it, isn’t it? You are doing the best you can to cope and survive amid your struggles, and that’s all you can ask of yourself. We’re doing all we can; there isn’t any more. That’s what “best” means. There’s nothing better.

I read a blog post yesterday written by someone who is struggling with perfectionism. As a recovering perfectionist, I felt the writer’s pain in a very real way. It took me a long time to get over my issues, and I’m so grateful that I was able to live my life the last 10 years or so without carrying that heavy burden.

My mother was a perfectionist, so my childhood was defined by the dichotomy between her need to be the perfect mother and my imperfections, which she seemed to take personally and viewed as “wrongs” to be righted. She believed she could make me into the perfect child she had envisioned. She aimed to do this by attempting to control every aspect of my life and personality. I got the message very early on that the person I counted on for my survival felt there was something wrong with me – a lot wrong with me – and I did all I could to convince her otherwise by being the best little girl ever and doing everything she said. It wasn’t enough, though.

I was never enough.

This screwed me up pretty good, I’ll tell you. As I grew up I gradually took over the browbeating where my mother left off. She had convinced me that I was worthless and that my best bet was to hide all that was wrong with me by trying to control everything and everyone around me. Believe me, I tried.

The depression started when I was 14, and got worse as time went on. Decades later, in therapy, I saw how the perfectionism and the depression were connected. Not rocket science. Perfectionism is all about control. It has nothing to do with striving for excellence. Striving for excellence is healthy and empowering. Perfectionism is exhausting and paralyzing. Ultimately, you can’t do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing, and that’s where the depression comes in.

I try to be easier on myself now, and I’m much happier – much more comfortable with who I am and what I need – than I was most of my life. I wish I could gift that freedom from the need to be more to that young blog writer. I wish I could convince her that she’s fine just as she is, and that no one is keeping score, perfect, or otherwise. I wish she would believe me that she is enough, and that she is welcome in the world with all the rest of us imperfect humans.

It’s hard enough to get along the path without standing in your own way or tripping yourself up because you’re beating yourself up over every little thing you can’t control or accept. The reality is that there’s no right way to live, or to be; we are all unique and that’s what makes us wonderful. Every single one of us. We all have a place here. Everyone is deserving of love and understanding. Period.

Don’t believe other people when they tell you they have it all figured out, and that there’s a “best life” or that having more stuff or more experiences or money or relationships or anything will make you happy. It’s not on Facebook or somewhere else “out there.” Real life is right here, right now, whatever is happening in this moment, just as it is.

Real life. Real life that’s scary and wonderful and imperfect and glorious. It’s in you, that safety, that comfort. Happiness. Acceptance. Relax into it and let the rest go.

You are enough. You always were and you are now.

Let it be.


Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine

My first computer was a Coleco® Adam.

Coleco_ADAM_Video_Game_Consoles_2187e4b4-fc21-4727-9e2d-3a13e99ab9eb
You had to write the programs, type them into memory and save them on a tape drive that looked just like an audio cassette. I loved it. Mostly I used it as a word processor cuz I had a program for that, and I was in college so it was really handy for papers, etc. That was 1983. I LOVED it. I wrote other programs for it – games and other easy things – and I spent hours on it. I had it for a long time.

My next computer, after college, was an Apple IIc. I got a bank loan to buy it and an ImageWriter printer.

I had a 5 1/4″ and a 3.5″ floppy drive for it. No hard drive. No mouse. I LOVED it. I used it for years. I ordered software by mail from catalogs – Broderbund, mostly. The screen was all text, no images, of course, but it was awesome. I used it everyday to write stories and balance my checkbook and play games. I had it for a long time. At work, I used an Apple IIe:

Apple IIe

It had a modem and that was the first time I used email. I’m guessing that was about 1986 or ’87. I still have that computer and the modem. Up to that point we had used a Telex machine. Remember those? Yes, Virginia, there was a time when fax machines and email didn’t exist!

I got a modem for my IIc at home and learned how to connect to our local college’s BBS system and email, then later ftp. After that, things moved pretty quickly. I bought a Mac and joined eWorld, which was Apple’s online system, then AOL. Then finally, we had access to an reasonably inexpensive ISP here in my little town, and I had access to the WWW. Text at first, and then Netscape (1994) came along and the internet as we now know it started to take shape.

I had a series of Mac Performas, and then a Windows laptop and then a series of Windows towers and laptops. Early on I had a business designing websites (starting in 1995) and my own website for my business, which became a personal website after my business failed in 2000. In 2003 I started a blog on Journalspace, called Friday’s Child.

I LOVED blogging. I had always journaled on paper and loved writing, and now other people could read what I wrote! And comment! And I read what they wrote and we were a community! Sadly, Journalspace died, so I started a blog on my website using WordPress software. I don’t remember what it was called. Since then I’ve written 2 other “special project” blogs – not for public consumption – and I started this WordPress.com blog in 2008 after scuttling my website.

So, now, here we are. Why did I force you to go on that trip down Tech Memory Lane with me? Well, cuz I think it’s interesting, for one thing. A revolution in the way information is deciminated in a VERY short time historically. I was a part of it, in the way my mom can remember when there was no TV and my grandmother could remember when there was no radio.

Cool.

My geeky brain recognized the importance and potential of computers when I was young, and I have always been excited to be a part of the evolution of computer use and the internet. For all its imagined evils, the internet is an amazingly empowering thing. The blogsphere, especially, represents a revolution in the world of communication and information transfer among human beings in the last 20 years, and I’ve loved being a part of it.

As a writer, I’ve benefited enormously. I can publish whatever I want online whenever I want. That was not true even when I was in college – in order for a writer’s  (or singer or movie maker or artist) work to be available to “the masses” he/she would have to pass through a publishing gatekeeper. Editors and movie producers and record producers held all the keys and could decide who “got in” and who didn’t.

For writers and photographers and artists, blogging has caused a dramatic shift in what it means to be successful. I won’t ever be published by a big house, or even a paper magazine, probably, but I’ve connected with 100s of people over the years through my writing, and that’s what matters to me.

Community is hard-wired into the human brain. The explosion of the internet – a network of networks – is remarkably like our brains in the way connections are formed and likeness is sought. We want to connect to others who are like us and the internet allows us to do that without physical presence. I can connect to the world sitting in my living room typing on my laptop.

As a young person, I didn’t know anyone who struggled with depression. Even though I knew a lot of people in high school and college, I didn’t know anyone who dealt with a mental illness in the way I did. I didn’t know I had a mental illness – something that was known and had a name. I just thought there was something really wrong with me and I found ways to manage life and stay alive in spite of it. On my own. I had friends, but I was really alone. I did everything I could to try to appear as normal as possible.

It was exhausting and lonely.

That changed when I got on the internet. I found information and found out I was not alone and that yes, there was something wrong with me, but it wasn’t my fault. It isn’t a character flaw,  There are other people who feel like I do. 

What a revelation! When I started writing my blog and started really being myself online, I connected with people who were more like me than anyone I had ever known, and who supported me as I supported them. Through my blog and blogging friends I found other resources online that were helpful – groups and forums. It changed my life in that it changed who I believed I was. 

Online I was a writer and people liked me as I really am, not as I pretend to be to fit in in daily life. Anonymity is a two-edged sword online, though, and that’s where social media runs into trouble. People misrepresent themselves all the time, and that’s too bad, even if their intent isn’t criminal.  Because the real power in the internet, and especially in blogging, is in really being able to be yourself and to connect to others like you – as we really are. Mask off, warts and all. Here I am, world! Anybody out there?

Yes, we’re out here. Ready to reassure you, ready to know you as you really are. No need to hide. Not here. Be yourself, tell us about yourself and we will welcome you. Tell your story. Post your photos, your art, tell us about your dreams and your failures. Make us laugh, make us cry, make us feel who you are and what you’ve been through. What has the experience of life on this planet been like for you? Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine and we’ll discover that we’re not so different after all, and that we are not alone. 

And that will make all the difference.

Thanks, Jenny, for the reminder.

Popeye and me

braccio-di-ferro

I’m 56 years old. I’ve never fit in. I’ve never been what anyone wanted me to be, or thought I should be. At times I’ve tried – especially when I was young – but it never really worked. I always end up just being me.

My original mother and father didn’t want me. My adoptive mother wanted a daughter, but she didn’t want me. She wanted me to be more like her, and I tried, but I just wasn’t. Our relationship has changed now because I take care of her and I’m all she has, but we still argue about the way I do things vs. the way she thinks I should do things.

I’ve never had a lot of friends, and I’ve managed somehow to alienate almost all of them sooner or later throughout my life. Depression played a large role in that, I’m sure. It’s what has damaged all of my relationships – with men, too. In many ways, that, more than anything has shaped who I am.

I’ve made the wrong decisions about almost everything in my life and I’ve failed at almost everything that ever really mattered to me.

At work, as I’m winding down my career, I find that I’m not fitting in with the 15-year olds who are running things now. I’m getting the message everyday in a thousand different ways that there is nothing about me that is valued in this company. It’s hard to get up in the morning knowing that I’m going to go to spend the day being reminded over and over again that once again I don’t fit in.

Social media tells me that I’m not living life the right way. The 15-year olds tell me I’m not working the right way. Most people I know have friends and family, as they have managed to live a full life, in spite of obstacles. On TV my life would be portrayed as the butt of jokes on a sitcom.

The Loser.

I’m a loser, baby. So why don’t you kill me….

In spite of all that…I’m here. I’m alive. I’m real. Against all the odds I’ve made it this far without being a burden to someone else or to society. I’ve struggled to stay alive and to become a better person. I have value simply because I’m here on this planet.

I’ve worked since I was 14. I’ve worked a lot of different places in several different capacities. I ran a business of my own for 5 years. I’ve given 18 years of my working life to this particular company. I have done a crapload of good work over the years. I have experience and I’m loyal. If others fail to see that, too bad. When I started here, many of my current co-workers were learning to use the potty or drawing pumpkins in elementary school. Someday, I’m guessing, they’re going to know what it feels like to be devalued, too.

So none of it matters. I’ll keep fending off the blows, healing the wounds, and going on. All that matters is me and what I think about my work and my life, and I think I’m doing just fine. My mother won’t live forever and in 5 1/2 years I will retire. I’ll be free in my life then in a way I never have been and who knows what I might accomplish? Who knows what I’ll have to offer the world before I’m gone?

I’m not done yet, and I am who I am; simply me. One and only. Not a loser, not a winner. Just me, doing the best I can.

And that is enough.

 

Spinning my wheels

19642551_10209527566812706_6722060519940696347_n

It’s a lovely sunny fall day here; not warm now, and not predicted to get warm, but sunny, nonetheless. We’ve had rain and cool temps for the better part of 10 days so it’s nice to see the sun. I’ve only managed one short bike ride in the last 11 days, not just because of the weather, but also because my daily life has become a long To-Do list, and there isn’t time for much else. Throw crappy weather into the mix and the bikes just sit in the garage for weeks at a time. Fall is here and the party’s over.

By “party” I mean my chance to enjoy an hour or two out of each day. By “enjoy” I mean feel like myself, feel free, feel like I’m going to be okay and that life is worth living.

Over. Gone. Finito. Stick a fork in it…it’s done.

Now begins 8 months of fall/winter and if it’s anything like last winter, I can’t even think about it. The weather was ridiculously horrible and life with my mother equally so. Now here it comes again, and this morning I feel like I can’t go on. I can’t face another day, another week. Week after week, after week, after week…

I will go on, of course. I go on everyday. Every moment of everyday I think I can’t do this anymore.

And then I do.

Nothing changes, and it gets harder and harder, but I go on. I get out of bed every morning before it’s light and I go to the job I have come to hate, and I go home at midday and make lunch for my mom and myself and then I go back to work and then I go home after work and make dinner for my mom and myself and do the dishes and take out the trash and watch TV and go to bed and get up before it’s light and go to work… Somewhere in there I deal with the problems – the millions of problems with my mother or the cats or the house or something – and I go grocery shopping or pick up prescriptions or pay bills, or something.

Everyday. Over and over. The weekends are only different in that I sleep later, do laundry and watch more TV. TV’s all my mother can/wants to do, so that’s what I do. Occasionally we play cards.

No friends. No freedom. Nothing that I like to do. Nothing I choose. No time.

No life.

So I feel like I can’t go on. Not another day.

And then I feel horrible and beat myself up over how ungrateful I am, and how awful to be so miserable over such small things. At least I am alive – I can think of a lot of people who are not who would trade me for just one more day. And what about people who have lost everything in a flood, hurricane or fire, or are ill, or in pain, or living in horrible poverty? What about John McCain all those years in a prison camp? He survived and went on to do great things – to make his life worthwhile.

And here I am – nothing, no one – complaining about my less-than-perfect life. Shame on me.

So the wheels in my head go round and round, and nothing changes and I feel worse and worse. I feel bad about my life and I feel bad about feeling bad.

I just wish I could ride my bike. Somehow when those wheels are spinning, everything gets better.

Maybe tonight, and then I will go on some more.