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.

 

Elemental force

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This weekend we had another house-falling-down-around-us event. I kept my cool and did what needed to be done and mom and I got through the day just fine. The plumber is coming on Wednesday and I’ll hemorrhage some more money and then we’ll keep going on as before until the next house event or health event or whatever.

I feel like something deep within me changed, though. Something shifted, and the death grip I’ve had on the future and my belief that I will survive this experience with my mother and go on has loosened. I think in order to keep going now I have to let go of any idea of a positive outcome, including emerging at the end with my health intact – mental, physical, emotional and financial – or even of surviving at all.

Hope has gotten me this far – the hope that this too shall pass and I’ll go on – but I have to let go of that hope and just do what needs to be done, with no thought beyond today and today’s needs. This has been a long journey, but the end is no where in sight, and I have to marshal my remaining resources, few though I feel they are, and just keep going, one foot in front of the other. It’s a waste of energy to keep looking ahead, to hope that things will change, that I’ll be free to go on with my life.

I may never get there and thinking about it, hoping for it, and planning for it is simply counter-productive now. It saps vital resources from the limited supply available, and compromises my ability to take care of my mother’s needs. Also, my near constant pre-occupation and exhaustion puts us both in danger.

Before the water event Sunday I had a go at trying to burn the house down completely. I boiled water in the tea kettle for breakfast and after I poured the water, I put the kettle back on the (electric) burner and forgot to turn it off. I went upstairs to eat my breakfast and answer an email and it wasn’t long before the smell of something burning wafted up the stairs and into my awareness. I ran downstairs, plucked the kettle off the burner and turned it off.

The kettle was ruined and the kitchen smelled horrible, but beyond that, everything was okay. A bullet dodged. When my mother got up I debated whether to even tell her about it, but I did finally, and she razzed me a bit, and we went on with the day, both feeling grateful that it hadn’t been worse. Then the water thing happened and that was not so easily remedied and that’s when I could feel something in me shift.

Fire and water.

Elemental forces are working against me now, and this whole thing is starting to take on a fateful tone. I was already stressed to the max from a really crappy week, and had hoped the weekend would provide a chance to recover a bit, but nothing less than FIRE and WATER said no. No rest for you. 

Okay, so I’m not really so paranoid as to think that anything is out to get me. But I do believe in karma and I do believe in fate – in the role it plays in karma. For the last seven years I’ve seen myself as the hero on this journey and assumed that I would complete the quest and go on. Karma would be exhausted and I would live out my (many) remaining days enjoying life. Tra la la.

In seven years, I have never even entertained the idea of any other outcome.

Sunday night I realized that other outcomes are not only possible, but as time goes on, they become more likely. There is no guarantee that I will complete the quest or go on, and so my only recourse is to just let go and let whatever is going to happen, happen. It is the need to believe in a certain outcome that is sapping my strength, making me constantly stressed and on alert for trouble, and so completely pre-occupied all the time.

This change doesn’t make me sad or happy, or anything. I feel nothing about it in particular, I’ve just noted that it happened, and I’m not really sure what it’s going to mean going forward. I hope it makes me feel less desperate and stressed and I hope it makes me feel clearer and present in each moment. My mother deserves that and so do I.

Whatever happens it’ll just be what it is. I’m done papering over things to make them prettier or more comfortable. Whatever happens happens. I don’t know if what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, but I suppose that’s as likely to happen as anything else. We’ll see, won’t we?

All of us, trying to navigate our difficult lives and just trying to figure out a way to be okay; to not feel so bad and unwelcome and unworthy when we’re not at our best.

Somehow, we go on.

 

 

 

Of snakes and worms and an ill wind

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I used to work with a woman whose favorite expression of stress and anger was, “I could bite the heads off snakes.”

Yep. That’s just how I feel. Bring it. Cuz I’M READY TO GO. This has been an off-the-charts CRAPPY week.

Work is hectic cuz everyone’s on Spring Break, and we are getting ready for a company-wide event of some consequence in a couple of weeks here at Acme Health Services. Those of us who DID NOT go on vacation to some warm sunny locale are stuck here doing extra work for those who did, and there’s a certain level of feeling and attitude in the building which has been rising all week, and is now at a rather uncomfortable pitch.

Good times.

Evenings are not much better cuz of having WAY too much to do and not enough time to do it, and I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope of improvement for the weekend in that regard, either. Trying to fit in ALL the needs – my mother, the cats, the incredibly-old-and-falling-down-around-us house, the daily/weekly chores, bills, etc. – and tacking on the end getting to the gym and trying to spend time with friends and have some semblance of a life that I might actually enjoy is just fecking impossible.

And sleep? Yeah…not so much.

It’s wearing on me. It’ll be seven years in November since I moved in with mom. Seven years. 12% of my life. It’s not that I regret the time I’ve spent as caregiver to her – I don’t. It’s the right thing to do, and I’ve learned a lot in that time. It’s been a good thing in many ways. This is what I signed up for. I didn’t read the fine print, though, about duration and wear and tear, and that’s where the trouble is.

What I’ve been wrestling with this week is all that this endeavor has cost me – what I’ve lost in those seven years, including my health to some degree – and wondering how much more I can take. I’m ready to move on, but I’m not finished here yet, and that’s disheartening. I alternate between feeling sorry for myself (unhelpful), and feeling like the lowest wretch on earth for essentially wanting my mother to die, which is the only way to gain my freedom and regain my life as I would like to live it for whatever time I have left on this planet (even more unhelpful).

Really good times.

Then there’s the advice from well-meaning folks, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything even remotely resembling the reality of my life. Trust me, the last thing I need to hear right now is “You’re doing it wrong.” That’s where the snakes come in, and I’m ready to just take a chunk right out of anybody who wants to get in my face right now, cuz I’m SICK TO DEATH of people thinking they know me or what’s going on in my life BETTER THAN I DO.

But then I have to step back and take a deep breath and think about all the people I’ve alienated over the years with unsolicited advice, and remember that these well-meaning co-workers and friends are trying to help, and that I left myself open to it by telling anyone anything about any of it in the first place.

Alex Dumas said: Sell your confidence at a high price, if at all; to be strong, keep your own counsel.

Smart guy, our Al. Too late for me and my big mouth, though, so I just smile and say “yes, for sure, oh really? okay” and then I go somewhere and eat worms. Now, if worms were good for high blood pressure, I’d be all set! Alas, not so, though, and neither is alcohol or ANY of the things I really like to eat and in the past soothed my ruffled feathers, so I’m left gnawing on carrot sticks feeling ornery and put out and just generally like I wish I had some snakes, cuz I would tear those babies RIGHT. UP.

Did I mention the weather and the wind and the lingering cold and general cloudiness and ickiness of early Spring in Michigan? No?

Well, such good times! And don’t even get me started about Mercury Retrograde…

So, anyhoo, that’s my week. How was yours?

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?

Finding my way through, one step at a time

Today I’ve had my own personal cloud following me around. I haven’t slept well the past couple of nights and I feel out of sorts today. Kind of owly and fragile and not really interested in anything except feeling better. Lack of sleep for sure, weather maybe, February probably.

Not much is the way I want it right now, and it’s been a challenge today to find the good in each moment. I’m not sure if I can’t see it because it’s not there, or because I’m just too caught up in the cloudiness of my thoughts and the lack of energy in my body. Maybe a little of both.

For me, there isn’t much good in February in northern Michigan. Today it’s very cold and gloomy and every walkway and parking lot is covered in ice from the big storm we got over the weekend, so even just walking to my car at lunchtime was an ordeal. I’m at an age now where I worry about falling and breaking a hip or something else, and about what would happen to my mother if I had to be hospitalized (or worse).

Work is challenging this week, and I’m not really in the mood to be challenged. I enjoy working less with each passing day, but I really have no choice but to stick with it until I retire in 5 years, cuz this is a really small town and there just aren’t that many jobs, especially for an “elder” worker like me.

I know, also, that my dissatisfaction/satisfaction meter fluctuates wildly most of the time – most days I love my job and Acme Health Services, so I know that my less than stellar feeling about being at work today is most likely fleeting, and that tomorrow I could feel completely differently, so I’m trying not to get too caught up in what is probably just a blip on the screen. This too shall pass.

I think overall the biggest contributor to my flagging spirits is simply waiting. It seems everything I want is just out of reach and I never seem to get there: retirement, Spring, freedom from my obligation to my mother, even the weekend. It’s all “out there” and today it seems so far away, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to those marks on the path ahead. I feel like I’m just plodding along (picking my way carefully across the ice), headed nowhere.

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Fortunately I’m not so cloudy that I don’t know that the biggest share of my angst can be attributed to not staying in this moment, right now. Thinking about the future and wishing it was 5 years from now is not only a waste of time, it’s downright demoralizing. Wishing my life away, failing to recognize what’s here in this moment, in my present reality, is just not helpful.

I know better, of course. It’s hard, though, not to harken to the siren call of the future’s promise that everything will be great when… I’d have everything I want if only… The future is all potential, not reality, so it can be whatever my little brain thinks up. I can talk myself right into believing that it’s going to be better at some other time and in doing so, completely lose faith in whatever’s happening now. It’s not as exciting. It’s not as promising of good things.

It’s not as hard.

Meanwhile, life is passing me by, and that’s not what I want. Can’t enjoy life if I’m not truly experiencing it, can I? No siree, Bob. So what’s a girl to do?

Focus on being here now.

At work: Take a day off to enjoy all of the above! Or…wear warm clothes. Drink some of Chris’ nerve-jangling coffee to really wake up and get into the day, or make a cup of tea. Listen to favorite music with iPod and earbuds so as not to disturb officemate. Take frequent breaks and stretch or walk upstairs for no reason.

At home: Curl up with a good book in a room with soft light and some music playing and thoroughly enjoy indoor-ness. Revel in the soft warmth of wool, flannel and fleece. Conjure up a hot brew – coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Burn a flowery candle or some jasmine incense.

At the gym tonight: Walk on the treadmill and listen to an audiobook or podcast on the shiny new MP3 player I gave myself for my birthday. Row or ride to someplace warm.

Write down 5 things that aren’t wrong today. They’re there  – think hard. I’m alive. I have a job. I have a home. It’s not November. It’s not Monday.

Locate and reinstall sense of humor.

Remember: This too shall pass.

Simple, not easy

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

So Valentine’s Day was last week, and everyone’s feeling warm and fuzzy about romantic couple love, but I think just as important and maybe even more important, in that I don’t think you can really make a relationship work without it – is the love you show yourself.

It took me a long time to get this. Growing up, my mother and other important adults were critical of me so I got the message that I was unworthy of love, and that message stuck in my head for a long time. I got other messages, including those on TV and in magazines, and from other people throughout my life that reinforced the original message, so I had an idea about myself that I felt had been proven over and over again.

There is something wrong with me.

50 years later I look back and I see that nope, nothing wrong with me at all. Never was. I was different from other people, certainly, but only in the way that we are all different from each other in our particular ways of being in the world. Just being myself, walking my path, trying to figure life out just like everyone else. No more or less deserving of love and compassion than anyone else.

It’s a shame it took so long for me to get that, but I have now, and for that I’m grateful. I push myself to do things that mean something to me, including spending time with people who are important to me, but all the goals and ideas I had about what my life would be like – should be like – have been replaced by only one:

Appreciate and experience as fully as possible every single moment of my life, and offer the best of what I have within me to myself and others.

That’s it. Simple, but not easy, I assure you. It’s a process, and while I’m getting a little better at it over time, I’ll never be “finished.” Two things have helped a lot:

  • I’ve developed a mindfulness practice, including meditation, in the last few years that helps keep me grounded and appreciative of what’s here now.
  • I check in with myself and how I’m feeling – what my body is telling me – before agreeing to do anything outside of work or caring for my mother – some things I say “yes” to cuz they’re what I want to do or need to do to stay true to myself, and/or support my mental and physical well-being. Other things I say “no” to for the same reasons, or simply because I don’t have time or energy and I don’t do well when I’m overwhelmed.

Again: simple, but not easy. As a recovering people-pleaser, saying “no” is especially difficult. I think of it as a muscle I’m exercising and making stronger – just as I’m building muscle in the gym 3 times a week. It’s good for my health, and my longevity, and it’s worth it, even though sometimes it’s uncomfortable.

Throughout my life people have taken me for granted, taken advantage of my willingness to do almost anything or become almost anyone in order to be liked, and not really taken much notice of who I really am or what I want. That’s fine, really, as I didn’t always know, either, and that was more about them than it was me, anyway. Those people have exited my life now, most because they chose to, but some because I pushed them out the door and closed it.

I have a couple of really good friends now – folks who truly know me and like me – and I don’t worry about the rest anymore. Life is not a popularity contest. Further, I’ve come to realize that ultimately, the only person I really need in my life is me. I’m the only one who’s been there the whole time. No one knows me as well as I know myself. Therefore, no one can love me as well as I can love myself. All of me – the good, the bad, and the really unattractive – it’s all there for a reason, and it’s all deserving of love and compassion.

I’m still learning – I hope I will be until my last breath – and I’m still struggling. I probably always will be, cuz I’m less than perfect. (Pro tip: we all are.) I’m completely okay with that, though, cuz the alternative is really unpleasant – trying to be “perfect” and being stuck in people-pleasing, self-loathing hell as I was for so many years. In so many ways I feel reborn everyday lately, cuz so many things seem new and fascinating and wonderful to me, including myself.

What a joy it is to be alive and to experience all that this precious life has to offer for as long as we can! Nature impresses me. Art and poetry and music impress me. Laughter impresses me. Sometimes other people, but mostly not so much. We all have something to offer, me included. None better, none worse. All impressive, none impressive. Everybody just getting on as best they can. That’s enough.

It’s going to take all of us, giving our best, impressing ourselves, offering the best that’s within us, uniquely ours, to solve some of the problems we, as a global community, are faced with. It starts with me, and with you, and it’s not at all about who has the best stuff, or the best job, or the slimmest waist, perfect kids, how many things we can do at one time, or whatever. That’s not what’s impressive about any of us.

It’s what’s inside. Look there. See what you find.

Are you impressed?

Sweatin’ to the oldies

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I went to the gym last night after work. After 60 seconds or so, I remembered what it is I hate about going to the gym.

It’s not the exercise. I don’t mind that. I feel so much better when I’m moving regularly, and I know I have to do it if I’m going to keep my blood pressure down without meds. They have some nice spinning bikes at this gym, and I like the step machine. Also, as cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise and I’m a woman of a certain age, I’m looking forward to some strength training.

It’s not even the inconvenience of having to get my workout clothes together in the morning, remember to put them in the car, go somewhere after work when I’m tired and hungry, change from boots and winter clothes to a tee-shirt, tights and tennies in a bathroom stall, then climb back into a cold car and drive home sweaty an hour later, freezing in said tee-shirt and tights. That’s all a pain, but whatever. I’m good at organization and routine. I’ve got this.

It’s not the music, but…ack! I’m old. I get that it’s what’s the thing now, but…just…ACK! MP3 player and ear buds in the gym bag next time. I recently subscribed to Audible.com, so maybe an audiobook, or maybe just some good 70s rock and roll. We’ll see. I don’t like earbuds, but I think the odds of the 20-something owner ever choosing music I like are so slim it’s not worth thinking about.

It’s a little bit the germs. I have hand sanitizer that I use frequently while I’m there, and the gym provides something in a spray bottle that you spray on the equipment when you’re done and then towel off (with towels that look like they’ve been chewed by hamsters), so I’m doing all I can do minimize the chance that I’m going to get sick from trying to be healthy, but still…ew. Not a deal-breaker, though. I’ve had my flu shot. I’ll be fine.

There are things I like about this particular gym. There’s a dog named Elle, who is just lovely and likes to be petted and talked to, and there aren’t a lot of people at that time, which surprises me cuz when I used to go to the gym 20 years ago 4-6 pm was the most popular time. Also, I knew two of the people who were there working out when I was, and one of them showed me how to turn on one of the machines I wanted to use.

And…wait! That’s what it is: I felt stupid. I don’t remember how to use the weight machines and I can’t figure out even how to turn on the cardio machines.

I used to know about the gym, but that was a long time ago and I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. Thank goodness a friend was there and he offered to help. When I go again on Friday (complicated mid-week, so a couple of turns on the treadmill at work will have to suffice until then) I’ll ask the owner for help. He offered when I first got there, but he’s young and good-looking, so of course I was cool, and said I was all set.

***finger gun at head***

Bang.

I hate that feeling. I hate feeling new. Dumb, not knowing. Uncool. I have been uncool all my life and now mostly I couldn’t care less what people think of me, but still sometimes that familiar feeling of humiliation trips me up.  Sometimes I just want to be suave and cool and hip and fun and pretty and all those other “I-fit-in-with-people-and-they-like-me” words. In a situation like last night, suddenly I’m 8 years old and the cool kids are all doing something I don’t know how to do (or more likely, not allowed to do as my mother was VERY strict), and I feel different and dumb and generally unworthy to draw breath.

So.

I have to step back and remind myself that I’m not 8 years old anymore, and I’m doing fine just the way I am, thank you very much, and not knowing how to do something does not make me unworthy of anything. I just have to ask someone to teach me. I’m not dumb or different from anyone there, really. I may be older, but hey – points for me for dragging my old butt out in the snow after a long day to do something I know I have to do to take care of myself.

In a couple of weeks – maybe sooner – I’ll be comfortable going there, and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to help someone who’s new after the holidays when everyone shows up at the gym to attempt to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

Most importantly, I’ll live a long time. That’s what matters. I’m doing something good for myself and I’m paying for the privilege, so I have to go. Period. I’ll enjoy it, cuz I choose to. I’m not doing this for anyone else, so it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.

The dog likes me, after all. That’s all I need.

 

 

 

Only 7? Cool!

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Who knew? I guess we all did probably, but man, are they hard to remember. Then you’ve got the 10 Commandments, and the 7 Deadly Sins. Yikes! There’s a lot to keep in mind.

In my experience, these seven rules work pretty well. Fairly simple to write down and post on Pinterest, I guess, but not so easy to live by. For me, one of the hardest is #5 – Don’t compare your life to others, comparison is the thief of joy. That is just so true it glows. Facebook and Instagram make that rule even harder than it ever was to keep a handle on. Those two bandits sneak right in and grab your happiness so quick it defies logic. Look how much fun (money, sex, family, friends, whatever) everyone’s having – what’s wrong with me?

The truth is they’re probably not having that much fun or whatever, either, but if they really are, good for them! Has nothing to do with me. Unless it’s someone I know and care about and I can be happy for their happiness or good fortune, those happy, shiny people photos don’t mean a single thing to me in my life at all.

I went to the doc yesterday for a 6-month check-up and it didn’t really go that well. My blood pressure is through the roof again, I’ve gained a little bit of weight and my cholesterol and triglycerides are climbing again. I feel okay and have been doing well mentally and emotionally the past few weeks, but the numbers don’t lie, and I’m going to have to do something about it. That just really p*sses me off, cuz I had been doing really well with all that stuff, and now here it is again. I. Can’t. Catch. A. Fecking. Break.

It made me angry, and anxious, and I didn’t sleep very well last night – I’m going to have a stroke! I’m going to die! – but this morning I feel a little more reasonable and I know what I have to do and I accept that I have to do it. We all know someone who smoked and drank everyday, ate whatever they wanted, never exercised and yet still lived to be 100, right? Yeah, well, that’s not going to be me. Bad genes, mostly, but also a general winter laziness and fondness for sweets are my burdens to bear. Never mind all the fat people who do what they want and still live forever, I have to exercise and lay off the pastries if I want to live to be 100, and I do.

Thinking that I’ll be okay because I’m doing better than someone I work with who weighs twice what I do, or someone who doesn’t exercise at all ever – I rode my bike over 1000 miles this summer, after all – is not serving me well. Forget joy, comparing myself to other people in this way is likely to steal my health, if not my life, and I need to just get over it. Do what needs to be done. Period. Suck it up, Buttercup. Figure out a way to get some exercise this winter. Say “no” to the goodies in the break room everyday (and the lovely blueberry scones that call to me in the grocery store bakery every week).

Surely I can manage those two things again. I wish I didn’t have to, cuz geez, I hate going to the gym, and OMG, do I love sugar cookies (and scones). I have to do what’s right for me – in all things – and just not think about what other people are doing. It’s right for them – great! Not right for me. Oh well.

That’s life.