To be Continued

The cohort gathered to the side, waiting for their turn to receive their diploma and thrilled to be in this moment together.  There was safety in this group, they each had grown leaps and bounds. Hearts were filled with adoration for each other, while tummies fluttered with anticipatory butterflies.  There was an aura of disbelief that they had actually made it through grad school and to this point.

Her name was called.  Feeling strong and proud, she went up the steps, handed her name card to one of the faculty and quietly pronounced her last name.  The nod came and she moved across the stage; pausing to have her hood placed by a professor that she deeply admired.  The next stop was the university’s President.  Her beaming smile was ready for their photo as they shook hands and looked into the camera.

Among the graduation attendees were members of her precious family.  The first face she saw walking out into the chairs was that of her beautiful mother.  She located both of her treasured children, her big brother and one of her beloved nieces.  She felt incredibly loved! Her heart was bursting with joy and gratitude that she was really here.

This was graduation.  It would go down as one of the best days of her life.  That evening, there was a celebratory dinner, tears, toasts, laughter and love.  So much love. Friends and family surrounding her, filling her cup to the brim and overflowing.  Her heart was bursting with gratitude and joy.  She breathed it all in; still slightly in disbelief that this was real.

She knows herself intimately; yet she senses there is so much more to know.  She is an onion, peeling back a layer at a time.  This higher education is the first dream she has pursued and seen to the finish line; she stepped into this with full faith and trust that it was exactly where she was supposed to be and all the details would fall into place.

She thinks back to an intensive emotional camp that she and her ex-husband took their two teenagers this last summer, in hopes of bringing healing to the wounds they had caused each other.  During that camp; there was an indoor ropes course.  She was paired with her beautiful 14 year old daughter, a reflection of her soul.  Here is what happened, as told by, ‘her’.

“I was terrified, not of the heights, but that I wouldn’t be able to balance.”  (She had struggled some with balance issues since the stroke many years ago.  In truth, she struggled with looking or feeling ‘broken’ more than she struggled with balance).

“I asked the person assisting us with the ropes course to please check that I was tightly fastened in, several times.” “They assured me of my safety, reminding me that the ladder could move anywhere and give me an out anytime I needed it.”  “I heard ‘C’mon Mom, you’ve got this, you can do this.’ Stella had already crossed the four wide swinging logs and made it to the next platform.  I looked at her sweet face and thought to myself, “I cannot disappoint her, again.”

“I held so tightly to the ropes that my fingertips could’ve become engrained in them.” ‘One…two…three…four steps and I made it.”  Stella was right there telling me what a good job I did.  I watched her cross onto the next platform by crawling through two swinging tunnels.  It looked easy enough.

Pfft.  Stella’s 14 year old lithe self is alot smaller than my 47 year old cushy self. ” In order to cross from one tunnel into the next, I had to squat inside the first one, step onto a square platform in a squat and drop into the next tunnel.”  “This is when my anxiety really started; I could feel my throat clenching as I reminded myself to breathe.  My arms ached from the death grip I had on the ropes.” “Still, always my cheerleader, Stella continued to cheer me on.”  “I stood up on the next platform, legs and arms shaking. ”  I saw the rows of skinny logs that were swinging and began to talk myself into a frenzy.”  “Stella was on the other side and right after this was the zipline, which I desperately wanted to do.”  “I wanted nothing more than to show my daughter that we were in this together, I trusted her, I would do this.”

“My fear gave way and on the next to the last swinging log, I began to sob.  Loud.” “I asked Stella to get a worker to help me.” “She didn’t want to, she told me I was almost there, but I was hearing nothing louder than my fear and doubt.”

“The kind eyed, young girl came to help me.  She assured me she could get the ladder but told me that I only had one step left and I would be safe on the steady platform.” “She held out her hand and I took it and stepped across.”  “I made it!  Disbelief in my success, again.”

“I apologized profusely to Stella.  I felt ashamed of my emotional, loud fear and tears that everyone could see.”  “I don’t know what Stella saw, she hugged me and I hope, even if she was embarrassed, she was proud of me.”

So…okay…”she” is “me”.  This is my own story to own.  Here’s the thing I learned from that ropes course.  It was an exact mirror to my life.  There are numerous things that have been important to me.  I get right on the edge of success and I quit.  I stop.  I freeze.  Why?  Maybe because I don’t know what’s on the other side.  The devil we know is better than the one we don’t know, right?  All too often, I yield to my own fear rather than ask for a little help.  I had no idea that a ropes course would offer me such deep insight to my life.

One week post graduation…

I’m going through all of the graduation cards and gifts I recieved last week and soaking in all of the gratitude.

It’s not about the sentiments and gifts, though I am deeply thankful for them. They are the cherry on top of the sundae. No way, in all of ever, would I have graduated without the constant love, prayers, support, encouragement, and appropriate ass kickings when I needed them.

For so many reasons, I never thought I’d be ‘here’. My brother knows me well. On my card, he wrote, “What’s next? No reason to stop now.” Because it’s what I’ve done so many times…I stop right before I succeed. (see ropes course example)

I realize that the last week I have been a little frozen, a lot sad and slightly discouraged. What is next? I DON’T KNOW! I like to know, you know?

Last night I had a dream. It pinged me so hard that I woke to write it in my journal so I wouldn’t forget it.

The sage and kind therapist my ex-husband and I saw for three years, Missy, was in my dream. I was in her office, telling her of all my woes. Before I left, she told me she had a gift for me.

She reached up on her tippy toes and pulled a small item out from the back of a cabinet. She held her hand out and in it was a key. She asked me what this key represented to me. Odd question, I thought…even for a dream. Yet, I knew. Missy gave me one of her famously warm, reassuring hugs that let me know life would be okay. Better than okay. I thanked her and left her office.

I took a black sharpie, and on the key, I wrote, “OWNERSHIP.” I can’t stop reflecting this morning as I feel joy and pride swelling up inside my heart. This is my life. I must live it and I must live it well.

This journey has just begun. I have the key to open the doors.

I HAVE THE KEY.

 

P.S. Stella and I rode together to my graduation.

During the drive, in Stella fashion; “I want to tell you something mom but you can’t get all cheezy.

Me: “Sure love, what’s up?”

Stella: “I am so, so proud of you.”  (Immediately followed by a hand and, “That’s it!  Don’t get cheezy.”

That is more than enough.

A Moment with Alzheimer’s

Imagine this…

You don’t know the name of your own daughter when she is standing in front of you although you have been her Daddy for 52 years; the place you have lived for 6 months feels like a foreign land; you can’t see well because of a degenerative eye disease and your hearing is severly diminished. You believe (because your thoughts are so haywire), that everyone is out to get you and no one should be trusted. The one person you do trust has turned into two of the same person and you don’t know which one is the ‘good’ one. You are given a piece of chocolate that you love by a kind woman you generally like, but you can’t eat it because you are 99% certain she has poisoned it and you don’t know why she wants to hurt you.

Every conversation, every whisper, every sound is overstimulation and reminds you that there is a conspiracy in every corner. All of this…and yet, there are some very real cognitive processes and heartfelt feelings going on.

You quiet just a bit because of the medicine that was rubbed onto your neck to help calm you but now you feel sick and anxious for a time. You allow the kind woman that you generally like to kneel down beside you and hold your hand. You soften but you are still frightened, and your heart is racing as is your mind. “Is she safe?” you ask out loud. You allow her to stroke your forehead and listen to her soft words to you…although they are gentle, they are just a big clump of jibberish. Tears roll silently down your soft, wrinkly cheeks.

Then…you come to life for a moment in time. You tell the woman that you are nearly blind, can barely hear, don’t know who to trust and are scared ‘they’ are going to hurt you. You ask her why your brain is damaged too. You tell her that you have lived a good life, you have done things right…now here you are and there is nothing you can do to help yourself.

What does the woman say? She tells you that you are safe, that she loves you and that she does not know why this happened either. She holds your hand, lets you lean your forehead into hers and she prays out loud for you. She thanks God for your life and she asks him to hold you close through this often horrific journey. She asks God to allow her to provide comfort for these people on their journey, for in giving that comfort, she recieves her own healing.

#afewmomentswithalzheimers

#shepraysforacure

Briefly forgotten

Sometimes I get stuck in the muck. Focusing on the lack does that for me.

I forgot my word this year is abundance…as in I have been provided with an abundance of all my needs.

I forgot I have the option to love myself despite someone else’s actions.

I forgot I can choose acceptance over struggle. We are all fighting our own battles and traveling our own journey.

I forgot about grace for all. Forgiveness is healing. Love is stronger than fear. Emotions are okay and gratitude is growth.

Today, I remember these things.

It’s okay to be hurt. It’s not okay to accept the perception of others as an interpretation of my own worth.

Rooted in change…then and now

Transformation, alteration, renewal, metamorphosis….constant change is a certainty of this human experience.  Stubborn resistance may root us in place.  Still, the very change that surrounds will also change us.  Why resist?  We are forever becoming.

I was playing a little game with a friend, we were giving each other a number, and we had to share the photo from our phones that matched that number.  He asked to see the 10th picture of only me.

The 10th picture of only me sent me spinning with shame and embarrassment.  I could not show him this one.  However, I promised…no cheating.  Before sending the photo, I let him know that this was taken at one of the worst times of my life.  My ex-husband had just told me he no longer loved me and wanted a divorce; my precious daddy was dying after a 12 year battle with Alzheimer’s.  The picture (which is here for all the world to see) was a clear image of a lady who had no love for herself and her eyes held a deep sadness, despite the smile on her face. The only reason I share it is because I am trying to practice what I preach…vulnerability and transparency. In this moment, I also share in hopes of diminishing the pier of shame this photo holds.

This precious friend heard my shame and replied with, ‘it’s just a selfie, look at your smile’.  Then he made me laugh with a gentle joke about chipmunk cheeks.  I never thought I’d giggle looking at that picture, but I did, and it was genuine.  However, I have obsessed over that picture since.  It’s not just that I hadn’t realized how much I changed, it brought back a rush of painful memories.

I remember the day the man who was the only love I’d ever known told me he was leaving.  I was inundated with feelings of unworthiness, disposability and fear.  For some reason, I made a little video on my phone to myself.  I guess to commemorate the day.  I very clearly stated (to myself) that I wanted to learn to love myself, no matter who else loved or didn’t love me.  That my friends, is the journey of transformation I have been and am still on.

My timehop today reminded me that at this time last year, I had lost 20 pounds on Weight Watchers.  I then stopped Weight Watchers, and started doing my own thing.  It’s called the ‘keto’ish but not all the way because life is too short to not enjoy ice cream” diet.  Clean eating pretty much, low carb, very low sugar and almost no processed foods.  In doing this, I have lost another 28 pounds.  This makes 48 pounds gone!  I should be so proud.

Rather, my first reaction was “wow!, but I have so long to go.”  I began a laundry list of all the men who would like me better if I had a better body, and of how life would be different if my ass matched my sass!  (Borrowed from a favorite meme).  Somehow, I stopped myself in the middle of my negative recitation.  I wondered to myself, “what will it take for me to be good enough?”

I asked myself what I wanted.  Easy.  I want to love myself.  As is.  I want to believe I am enough and honor that deeply, no matter where I am on my journey.  I want to be excited about the work I am doing for ME while enjoying who I am right in this moment.

I want to practice gratitude, for I have so much to be grateful for.  I am here, breathing.  I am a miracle, just as we all are.  Life is the celebration!  I have two legs that are strong and lovely, and they get me where I want to go.  The gift of walking was taken away from me in 2009 and I had to relearn that skill at the age of 35.  How dare I fuss that I am not enough?  My heart is strong; it is full of love, life and laughter.  I can easily exercise on the elliptical for 35 minutes without rest.  I might not be the most graceful, but I am me and I am a masterpiece.  There is no one like me, ever, anywhere.  I am blessed in every way, I want to remember this every second of every moment of every day.

I want to realize that when someone asks me out on a date, they are every bit as lucky to have time with me as I am to have time with them.  It is not settling to be with me, it is a gift, for I am pretty damn cool.  I want to stand in this truth.  It changes my choices, it changes everything.

I want to show my kiddos who I am at my core and that we are ALL capable and worthy of beautiful, positive, transformation…their Momma included.

There is so much joy in the transformation these days…one day the pain will be nothing but a motivator for better.

 

Life

It’s been a teeny bit of a struggle hearing about Luke Perry’s death. I mean, it’s sad when people die anyway. Then, it feels especially sad to me when they are young. He was for sure young.
We are told that Luke died of a stroke. Anytime I hear this, I feel this flurry of emotions. It’s a combination of deep gratitude for being alive and well nine years after the stroke I had, and of intense guilt for being here when others are not. It’s a feeling of being safe and held that is often interfered with by feelings of anxiety and fear.
I want to know all the details of his stroke. How, when, why, where? As if all of these answers bring me a magical always healthy solution. I have such an ability to let my worries spin right out of control until I lose myself in the middle of them. (I’m speaking to health anxiety…not to my whole way of being). The minute I get lost in that world, I disconnect from all that I love.
It’s been a gift to learn this about myself; to be aware of the things I do when I’m heading in that direction; and to do them.
Being still and trusting that God has my back has been huge for me and it’s rarely my first response. Reaching out to the handful of people that know my heart deeply is such a gift, and another thing I rarely do first.
My wise momma once asked me in the middle of one of my biggest times of worrying about losing my life…”We only have this life, are you going to spend it living or dying?” Absolutely I want to spend it living.
It’s a good day.