my bike is a very very very nice bike

This morning, I was feeling incredibly motivated.  So –despite the habit I’d fallen into the past few weeks– I jumped on my stationary bike before 9am.  I started my audible.com book (“The Cruel Sea” for anyone interested … not something you might first consider to be good bike-riding listening, but I’ve been enjoying it very much).  I settled in for a long ride.

But … Something was off.  I’d noticed it yesterday, but thought it was just my foot slipping on the pedal.  This morning, it was different.  Very rhythmic.  Very disruptive.  Around 30 minutes into my ride, I picked up my phone and messaged John.  I told him something was wrong — he’d need to look at the left pedal when he got home.  I was going to power through my ride.

Only, I wasn’t.

At 32 minutes, the pedal fell off.  I scrunched down, I looked at each piece — the fallen off pedal and the mechanism on the bike.  Things were wobbling.  I sent John a picture.  I told him I’d broken the bike.

He was wonderful.  He asked for more pictures.  He started googling new bikes.  Within three hours, we’d checked “Best of” lists and ordered a new stationary bike as well as a trainer to put our outdoor bikes on.  I maniacally checked the shipping info.

I have become so used to riding my bike every day, sweating out the sorrows, the woes, the frustrations, the sadness and the fears.  Working through problems.  That when the pedal fell off, I felt even more adrift than I had when I left my job.  I felt terrified.  How would I get through the seven days it would take for my new bike to arrive?  How would I survive?  More importantly, how would I sweat? 

I fretted about it all day.  While I took Lucy to the vet, went clothing shopping with John, waited for take-out burgers.  I tried to calm myself with the knowledge that help was on its way.  But it didn’t make me feel better.  Smaller bumps than this had disrupted better men.  How would I stay focused and motivated with a seven-day gap?  I didn’t trust myself.  I didn’t trust my resolve.  Thirteen months, and this could be the end.  I was despondent.

John and I got home.  We put on comfy clothes.  I spread out our food booty on a TV tray.   Burgers, and french fries and blue cheese dipping sauce with a small cup of root beer.  He said he was just going to check out the bike.  Minutes ticked by.  I paced.  I fretted more.  I  poured two glasses of wine and walked downstairs.

“Do you want the good news or the bad news?”  There was laughter under his words, but ironic laughter, disillusioned laugher.  Not funny laughter.

“It can be fixed? But not today?”  I guessed.

“Ha!”  This time he did laugh.  ”No.  It’s fixed.  But we just spent a ton of money replacing it.”

“It’s fixed?” My voice was filled with both delight and the underlying fear that he was lying.

“It’s fixed.”  He stood up, his hands on the console.  He spoke with finality.

My whole world lightened.  I smiled, stupidly, childishly.   I positively beamed.  He shook his head.

“I can ride it tomorrow?”

“I wish I’d looked at it tomorrow.  Because now I have to ride it tonight!” He words were heavy but lined with amusement.  He caught my expression.  ”You can ride it tomorrow.”

We climbed the stairs back to our living room and settled in for burgers and sitcoms.  We toasted our glasses, and I thanked him for fixing my bicycle.  He smiled sadly.

“I’ve counted on it for thirteen months,” I began, feeling guilty.

“I know. I’m glad it was an easy fix.”  He kissed my forehead and took my hand.  We curled into the couch.  ”I just don’t know where I’m going to put the second bike.”

creature comforts

On Wednesday my husband bought me three Caramello bars.

I adore Caramello bars.  I compulsively buy them every time I go to a Wawa (or heaven-forbid another gas station market). I cannot go to CVS without detouring to the candy aisle to check for them.  If I don’t eat them, I stash them in the freezer.  Y’know.  Just in case.

I was feeling a little blue on Wednesday.  It’s the middle of March, so it’s right on time.  But it gets me every year because I am convinced that it will be better.  It never is.

Tuesday’s ‘blizzard’ was so disappointing, and my day was so … far from what I’d imagined … that Wednesday felt like a hangover.  The ‘ice snow’ was piled inconveniently around the entire neighborhood, making a walk with Lucy like climbing Everest and moving my car basically a no-go  Not that I had an incredibly exciting destination.  I didn’t.  But a chai tea latte on a snow squall day can cheer up anyone.  And it wasn’t even an option.

Bad days are always peppered in with good days — regardless of my work status.  I think everyone — if they were being honest — could agree that not every day dawns full of sunshine and roses.  It’s really about how we choose to deal with the obstacles.

I’m getting better, but I’m not necessarily good.

Some of the things I’m non-negotiable about in order to get myself motivated ~

I always get up when John takes Lucy out for her morning walk.  No matter what, I make us smoothies.  I’m pretty Nazi-ish about green smoothies.  Sometimes all John wants on the weekend is a big breakfast, and instead I present him with a bright green smoothie, and multi-vitamins.  He’s a champ though, and drinks them every day.

I also made a commitment last March to ride my bike.  And now, I ride pretty much every day.  Even when I procrastinate until 4pm, I manage to slink down, climb on and ride.  And inevitably, I feel better.  All that talk about endorphins and exercise?  Yeah, it’s pretty true.  Exercise works like a charm every time to boost my spirits.

I’m also a little obsessive about my water intake.  I try really hard to drink about 90 ounces of water a day.  First, it’s not easy.  Second, you have to pee a.lot.  But again, it always ends up being worth it.  I feel better, I don’t stuff junk food in my face all day, and my skin looks amazing (haha!).

I think one of the most important things is recognizing when the blues are coming.  Sometimes I’m in them before I realize.  But because I am such a creature of habit, I’ve usually already had my green smoothie, drunk a ton of water, and either ridden the bike or had it planned.  Doing these things are a small help in keeping my life on an even keel.  Because it’s not just about the sadness, it’s also about the M.S.  The way it wreaks havoc with your life.  The way you are up one minute and down the next.

I’m really really hoping that the weather figures itself out and we progress slowly toward April and warmer temperatures.  I love the winter and the snow.  But Mother Nature sure has been ornery about it this year.  I’m ready to feel steady again.

 

 

 

snow daze

Twice this winter we have had dire forecasts that amounted to nothing.

Wildly disappointing.

I was looking forward to snow — mounds of snow, the air thick with snow — so much fluffy whiteness and quiet that it drowned out life for a moment.  I was massively let down.

I’ve been in an interesting mindset for the past few weeks.  Not quite sure where I’m going, not quite sure where I’ve come from.  When you spend a significant amount of time in any situation, you lose perspective.  You forget all the compromises you made along the way to get through the day.  Coming to terms with that can be both difficult and humbling. It can make you see yourself in a different light.

I spent many years of my life in abusive relationships.  I kept my head down.  I believed if I loved enough, if I gave enough, then any obstacle could be overcome.  I was wrong.

My husband is a great man.  A kind man, a thoughtful man, a caring man.  I walked through the fires of hell to get to him.  I don’t know what changed in the universe, what realigned karmically that allowed us to meet and make things work.  The timing was terrible.  I mean, it couldn’t have been worse.  We were painfully poor, I was unemployed.  Between us we had debt that could drown better men.  And somehow, we kept our heads down, we held onto each other and we — against all odds — became an unbreakable team.

We both did things along the way that broke us a little.  Things to pay the bills, things to get by.  We compromised our morals, we smiled in the face of ignorance and pettiness.  We held onto each other in the darkest moments, and then we held onto Lucy.  And we believed, unwaveringly, that we would get through to the other side.

A few years ago, after our backyard wedding and living in an 800 square foot apartment for six years, we somehow found ourselves on the other side.  We paid off debt.  We bought a house.  We bought silly cars.  We traveled to Italy, and then Iceland and then to Jackson Hole …. just because we could.

And after all of that, after all the struggle and the smiles and the massive compromises, I broke on the inside.  I lost my drive.  My direction.  I wondered what I was doing with my life.  Why I kept doing it.  I justified it all.  I came up with reasons.  They were good, too.  And they weren’t wrong.  I’d done what I’d done to get to where I stood.

But once I was there, once I had the things I’d worked so tirelessly for, I couldn’t imagine continuing.  I couldn’t imagine keeping up the smiles when I was so desperately, deeply unhappy.

So one would have thought that leaving that situation, walking away from all the burdens that had weighed on my shoulders for years — would make me feel infinitely better.  Strangely and sadly and with much disappointment and bewilderment, it did not.

I find myself, at thirty-seven, wondering who I am, what I stand for.  I don’t have children to help define me, to give me purpose.  And I don’t have the career that I held onto with a vice-like grip, to help me justify the choices I’ve made across the years.

It’s these moments, this struggle for self-discovery that separates the weak from the strong.  How do we rebuild ourselves following ‘the end’?

friendship

So, here’s a truth.

I quit my job at the end of January (technically, I gave notice at the beginning of December, but my last day was January 31st).  I quit my job and I didn’t really have a plan.  I knew I needed to change things up.  I knew that I had grown increasingly unhappy in my position.  But in juxtaposition to that, I walked away from so many great things that I’d done.  So many great things that I’d helped build. So many great people. Coming to terms with that was challenging.  And a little heart breaking.

During the end of my time at my last job and in these past few weeks of my unemployment (which has been surprisingly wonderful), I’ve had the chance to see a lot of friends, catch up on random things, procrastinate about cleaning the house and watch far too many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

And as I’ve come to terms with leaving Z, and moving forward in my life, I’ve also come to terms with a few other things.

Friendship is one of the greatest gifts of life.  True friendship, supportive friendship.  It’s beautiful and rare and should be nurtured and cherished.  But there are many kinds of ‘friendship’ and the good kind is the rare kind.  I’ve spent a lot of years doubting myself, and because of that, I’ve allowed other people’s doubts and judgements of me hold more weight than they should.  Because the truth is, I am the only person walking my journey.  No one ever trades moccasins with me.  No one ever has to suffer the consequences of my decisions.  Only me.  And I have to be able to sleep at night.  I have to be able to believe that the choices I made were the best ones.  The decisions and the actions — I have to stand by those things.  No one else does.

It’s okay that I didn’t have children.  Do you want to know why?  Because I didn’t want them.  And I knew that, and was responsible enough to stay committed to that.  I think children are adorable.  I think there are so many parents out there fighting the good fight, whose whole lives are wrapped up in their children and wanting what is best for them.  It’s a beautiful thing.  And also something I never wanted.  I’m not envious of people with children, of people with huge sprawling families.  I am happy for those people, and find joy in their joy.  But it isn’t my journey.

I didn’t have a plan when I went to college.  There were a lot of circumstances that colored my first few years at Penn State.  There were a lot of things that pushed me in one direction or another.  But I didn’t have a plan.  And that was hard.  And it was destructive and demoralizing when people judged that, when people belittled my struggle.  It was also painful to realize (in retrospect) that my struggles fed the feelings of superiority of people who claimed to be my ‘friends.’

It took me a long time to realize my worth.  My value, my abilities, my strength.  I can sit here now, and feel so proud of what I contributed to the little company that I helped grow, to the people I hired and mentored and supported, to the causes I championed.  And I know that even though my path to right now was not a standard one, and I didn’t really anticipate any of it, that who I am as a person, my hard work and personality, thoughtfulness and intelligence got me here.  And my accomplishments –both big and small — are not less (or more) than anyone else.

Actions speak much louder than words.  But words can cut like daggers.  Words can stay with you and sit in your soul.  Words can sometimes never be forgotten.

My purpose in life isn’t to make someone else feel better about their life choices.  It isn’t to be cut down and diminished to buoy someone else.  And I have ‘friends’ who make me feel that way.  I’ve had a lot of friendship break ups over the years.  Women are tough.  Women have a hard time supporting other women.  I am not innocent of bad behavior.  But I can also acknowledge when I do it.  And I am not proud of it.  And I have made promises to myself to be better.

But to be better, i also need to recognize when it’s time to walk away from something that no longer feels healthy or productive.  And that decision can be a difficult one.  Not because I like how I’ve been treated, but because there is history.  And there used to be — a long time ago — something that resembled love.

I am so blessed in the women I know are my true friends.  I am blessed in a husband who is friendship and companionship and adoration and love and lust and laughter and partner personified.  I am blessed in the people I choose to surround myself with who bring me joy.  I am ready to be done with the people who try to pull me down, who don’t believe in me, or bring laughter and light.  I am ready to be done.

Life lessons learned riding Septa

It was a long ride home last week.

I am at the very end of my current employment, and the train ride from our home into Center City is brutally long.  It’s long when the train is an express, usually clocking in around an hour and ten minutes.  But when it’s a local, it’s closer to an hour and forty minutes.  And that’s just the time I spend on the train.  Not waiting for it, not walking or driving to and from.  Just me, sitting in a pleather seat, watching South Eastern Pennsylvania slip by, day after day.

I began thinking, as I watched all the other passengers riding with me on the Paoli/Thorndale line, about all the lessons I’ve learned.  About myself, but also about life.  While commuting on Regional Rail for the past year and a half.

First, timeliness is everything.

Y’know that saying, early is on time, on time is late, and late is fired?  It applies to Septa.  And it should apply to all aspects of life.  I used to be habitually late.  I mean, you could set clocks knowing that I would be fifteen minutes late … at the very least.  But I learned really fast: that didn’t fly with Septa.

Think about it this way.  If your train is at 6.50am (which mine is) and you arrive at 6.50am, the train is gliding away from the station.  You’re late.  I mean, technically, you’re on time.  But you’re actually late.  If you get there after 6.50a you are just plain out of luck.  In order to be on the train, making your way laboriously into the city, you have to be early for your 6.50a train.  It’s not negotiable.

Now, Septa can be late.  And without fail, they are.

But YOU can’t be late.  And knowing that, living your life by that, helps give structure, and teaches you to appreciate timeliness.  In all aspects.

On that subject, when I made the adjustment from driving to commuting via train, I began to prioritize my life.  When you drive, time is loose.  Maybe you stop for a coffee en route.  Maybe you sleep in one morning.  Maybe you leave the office at 5pm.  Maybe you don’t.  You have a lot more freedom, but with that freedom (let’s say it together now) comes responsibility.

When I started to have a set time for work, I began to be more efficient with my tasks, prioritizing things that needed to be completed in the morning, things that could wait until the afternoon, and projects that could be spread across a few days.  I began to know exactly what needed to be done when, and how to do all of the things I needed to do within the time allotted.

I began getting home at a reasonable time every night.  Eating dinner with my husband.  Taking my dog for a walk.  Knowing that I did the best work I could during the hours of the day that had been ear-marked for work.  And that my evenings were my own.  (Sort of.  I work in the restaurant industry, so really, no time is truly your own.  It’s all the restaurant’s time).

All because Septa only goes to Thorndale once an hour — even during peak hours.  If I missed a train, I had to wait an entire hour, and get home even later.  That stopped being okay in the first two months.  It was exhausting, and I had no quality of life.  At all.

Something else about Septa.

Everyone is equal.  There isn’t a first class.  There are no special seats.  We all shuffle in, grab a seat, and hope that our seat mate showered that morning.  When the train is overly packed, the conductor speaks to the car like everyone is an adult with a brain.  He tells us that he’s not coming through to check our tickets.  To please show him when getting off the train.  He thanks everyone for their cooperation.

Everyone.

Not just me, the thirty-something white woman.  But the Indian and Hispanic people, the black men and women.  The Asians and the Arabs.  The women wearing hijabs.  The mother with three children.  The man with the seeing eye dog.

All of us.  As equals.

Every person riding Septa has a story.  Mine is pretty basic.  I live in the countryside of Chester County, but I work in Center City.  I commute during peak hours.  Sometimes later, when I stay to have dinner with my girlfriends.  Sometimes earlier, when I have to be at Penn for medication.  There are other people like me.  But there are other stories, as well.  Students riding in for classes at Drexel, Penn or Temple.  Men and women traveling to see a relative or loved one.  Someone commuting to the airport.  Someone who just got divorced.  Someone who just lost someone.  Someone suffering through IVF.  Someone with cancer.

Septa is the great equalizer.

We all show up on time.  Or we miss our train.  We all share seats.  We all smile when someone sits down, or gets up.  There are some exceptions (Septa isn’t utopia, people) but there are common courtesies that are observed on Septa.  Every night, the conductor wishes me a pleasant evening.  When people are lost, or confused, he helps them.  He maintains order in the microcosm of Septa.

I bet I’ve sat next to many a Trump supporter on the train.

I shudder thinking about it.  But I also think about how we are all just people on Septa.  Just people making our way through life.  I’ve had so many people help me on Septa.  When I was new, and completely terrified, people pointed me in the right direction.  When I jumped on a train, people let me know where it was going.  When I haven’t been able to lift a bag, someone has helped me.

And even when trains are delayed, or schedules are modified, or trains are pulled off the tracks or strikes affect travel…  People band together on Septa.  People watch out for each other.  It’s sort of heart-warming.

Anyway.  I am eternally grateful to Septa for making the past year and a half bearable.  I am grateful that instead of gripping my steering wheel in utter frustration, I could lean my head back and close my eyes.  I am grateful for learning timeliness.  And the greatness of people.

Thank you, Septa Regional Rail Paoli/Thorndale line.

 

 

 

January goals

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about getting ‘back on track’ in January, starting cleanses, hitting the gym, starting the ‘good habits’ etc.  In general, January is our collective ‘reset’ month.

This was my first January not feeling compelled by any of it.  I started a lot of my consistent, good habits in March of 2016, and I came through the Christmas season without feeling overwhelming guilt or over-indulgence.  Somewhere along my bike-riding and food-tracking journey, I started to not only listen to my body, but respect it.  I know that when you say no to the cake or candy, or only eat the vegetables at a big holiday dinner, some people might interpret that as being ungrateful or rude.  But in the spirit of my last blog post, I have reached a weird, zen state of self-worth.  I prioritize taking care of myself.  And I’m okay with that.

I didn’t even feel resentful through December, or as though I was depriving myself.  I knew what my limits were, I knew what I needed to do to keep on an even keel.  Riding the bike happens on Christmas Day in the same way it happens on a Wednesday night after work — because you choose to do it.  Eating a balanced meal is the same.  Munching on processed foods or potato chips is certainly easier than cooking dinner (even if you feel much worse for it in the long run).   There are few things I like to do at the end of a long workday, and cooking and exercising certainly do not lead the list.  So the hubs and I have come up with some meal hacks (mostly Wegman’s prepared meals and sushi) to get through the nights when cooking is absolutely not on the radar.  We talk enthusiastically about meal planning, but we haven’t quite reached that point of utter organization.

Right now, we are in a quandary about what to do with our two spare rooms.  Currently, one is set up as my home office, and the other is a library of sorts — but we call it Lucy’s room.  We set up our guest room in the basement with the en suite bathroom and private entrance, so we don’t really need to make either of these rooms another bedroom.  (Our guest count is fairly low anyway.)  We have found that while we have lots of ideas of how to make them look great, the point is to make them both look great and be functional, and that is a true challenge.  Since I am leaving my  job in a  few weeks, I’m not sure what my need for a fully functional home office will be moving forward, but even saying that, the way my current office is set up drives me bananas.

Right now I’m in a strange, mental purgatory.  I know what I’ve left behind, but I don’t know exactly where I’m going yet.  So it makes it challenging to plan.  To make decisions about what we need/don’t need.  I sit here, and between tapping away at the keys, I stare at the wall, wondering what my future holds, wondering what 2017 will bring for John and I.  Last year was such a crazy year — amazing trips and time with family and friends.  Football games, and dinners at delicious restaurants.  Fire pits on our deck, and holiday parties.  Settling into our new normal.  I don’t think I could have guessed last January that in twelve months I would be leaving the job that helped us get to this place, a job I thought I’d do for years to come.  That J + I would be staring down his second major surgery in less than two years.  That chaos would be dominating every corner of our lives.

And in the face of all these changes, all these uncertainties, I have this bizarre calm at the center of my being.  I know that we will be okay.  I know that no matter what, we will pay our bills, and keep our house and our cars.  We will continue to be able to feed ourselves and Lucy.  We might not get back to Iceland this year, but we will go back.  We will be okay.

And that’s what I hold onto when it all feels like it’s too much.  I hold onto the knowledge that John and I have gotten through everything together.  When our bank accounts were overdrawn and the credit collectors were calling non-stop.  When we couldn’t afford to turn our heat on.  When we couldn’t afford gas and groceries in the same week.  We figured it out.  We got it done.  And we will continue to get it done.  And I will continue to ride my bike in the garage, and eat spiralized zucchini and sweet potatoes.  And we will be okay.

self worth

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea that I am 37 and a grown up.  Those times when my mother used to say “I still feel 17″ boggled my young mind and now … make perfect sense.

When I was young, I had complete faith that all those people older than me, the ones who got up, and put their work day best clothes on, and slogged to the office and cooked dinner when they got home at night — they knew.  

I’m not sure what I thought they knew, but I knew they knew it.  They knew how to adult.  They had learned the secret, and they were busy getting on with being adults.  This secret that I was convinced existed, absolutely terrified me.  I was completely sure that I wouldn’t get it, and would forever be in a dark fog of ignorance.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out that there is no secret code.  There isn’t a secret answer that allows people to live successfully as grown-ups.

Highly disappointing and deflating.

I say that, and then my brain immediately contradicts itself.  There is a secret — if you want to call it that.  It’s called ‘self worth.”

I found myself giving the admin in my office some advice as I left yesterday.  I smiled at her, and said — “Nothing is really that hard.  Just take it one step at a time.  Look at everything as its own thing so as not to get overwhelmed.  You’ll be okay — once you do it, once you start, it will feel a lot less intimidating.” 

That’s the advice I’d give to a young me.  That nothing is as scary once you start.  Nothing is so difficult, so complicated, that you can’t get through it one step at a time.  Looking at things in groups make them seem insurmountable, but nothing is impossible.  If you believe in yourself, believe in your innate ability to work through things, puzzle things out, you will be okay.

Life has not been overly kind or forgiving for me.  I’ve fallen down a lot (with and without the help of Multiple Sclerosis).  But I’ve gotten back up, dusted myself off, straightened my ponytail (one of my new favorite sayings) and forged on ahead.  As I’ve done that, I’ve grown to really trust myself.  I know, even in the toughest moments, in the darkest, scariest times, that I can count on myself.  I’m tough, and even-keeled and smart.  I will get through it.

And slowly, I’ve built my self-worth.  And I believe in it.  I don’t think I’m perfect — FAR from it.  But I believe I am solid and capable.  I believe I deserve to be treated fairly and with generosity of spirit.  I believe in the choices I’ve made, the person I’ve chosen to become. Feeling that way makes me feel as though I can do anything if I just put my mind to it.  (Maybe I’ve been listening to Anne of Green Gables too much recently — I hear her voice in  my words).

Having this new appreciation for myself has made me realize that self-worth is the foundation, the secret.  Self worth allows you to go when you need to go, stay when you are willing to stay.  Self worth – I think –  is what defines successful adults.  So it took me 37 years to get here.  I’m okay with that.

 

bettis year

Last December, as I was celebrating my 36th birthday, my husband dubbed it my “Bettis Year Yet.”  I probably had some thoughts about being on the down side of 35 but he was having none of it.  He smiled at me.  He said “Babe, this time last year you were using a cane to walk.  We still lived in a one-bedroom rental.  This is going to be your Bettis Year yet.  I promise.”

He wasn’t wrong.  It was a Bettis year.  With incredible highs — Italy, Iceland, a return to Jackson Hole, my company growing exponentially, getting in much better shape and losing 15 lbs — but also devastating lows.  With the expansion of my company came the inevitable growing pains — the changing of an institution.  My favorite co-worker, the person I’d bled in the trenches with for years — left.  The infrastructure changed.  I felt lost, confused and unbelievably sad.  I gave my notice four days before my Carnell Lake birthday this year.

But with all that came really beautiful clarity.  And that is something I want to take with me into 2017, into my Carnell Lake year.

Here are some things I know about myself, deep down in the depths of my soul, in the marrow of my bones.

I see the world in black and white.  It doesn’t make things easier for me.  I think — often times — it makes it harder.  The world itself isn’t black and white.  It’s a myriad of gray.  I don’t exist like that.  It makes people resent me because I don’t fit in – it makes them uncomfortable.  It makes me the outsider.

I’ve always been an outsider.  Since birth, probably.  I wasn’t totally American, I am not British.  Because of that, I never fit in anywhere.  I was always a little off, a little different.  I used to fight it, trying so hard to squeeze my square peg into a round hole.  I spent so much time searching for a place to call my own.  I didn’t know that I had to make it myself.

I no longer care if people like me or hate me.  I don’t care if they think I am weird, or a stiff, or un-fun.  I am the only person whose opinion of me matters.  Whether my jeans look good, my shoes are in fashion, my values and morals make sense.  I have to look myself in the mirror and be okay with the decisions I’ve made, the words I’ve said, the direction I’ve chosen.  I have to be able to sleep at night.  I am okay being me.  And I like the real me, the Steelers-loving, Hamilton-listening, Gilmore Girls-watching me.  I like being manic about my skin care, and tracking my water in-take.  I like coming home and snuggling with my husband and dog. I am a-okay with my bed time of 8.30pm.  I like my life.

Life is a short journey.  I know we all feel as though we are rich with time.  But we aren’t.  My heart aches with the thought of leaving my job, leaving the restaurants that feel like my children, the employees, the culture, the love.  But at the end, I was sick with misery.  I was drowning in the blackest depression.  And even if I had no idea what my future held, I knew I had to go.  Because I’m on the clock.  My disease doesn’t care about anything or anyone.  And I might have it corralled for now – meds, and diet and exercise and sleep.  But M.S. can break anything, it has broken me before.  I am not willing to sacrifice myself on any alter but my own.

I hope that this year is filled with laughter and memories.  Sunshine and lazy mornings.  Long walks with my pup and my husband. Family. Chai tea lattes from Starbucks.

I hope I am able to learn things I don’t know, expand my horizons, meet people who challenge my brain.  Learn Spanish, or French, or how to play the damn piano.  I hope I read books and learn to understand the stock market and economics.  I hope I remember to always breath, and find myself on my bicycle.

I hope 2017 proves that maybe 36 was my Bettis year, but it wasn’t my Best.  My best is always the future, the surprises waiting around the corner.  The smell of freshly baked bread, or Stargazer lilies.  The way my husband feels when he holds me close to him.  The soft snuffle of Lucy sleeping on the couch.

Here’s to my Carnell Lake (#37) year and all that it holds.  Happy New Year.

 

My Shot

My obsession with “Hamilton” is absolute.

Today, the ‘Hamilton Mixtape’ was released.  I got on the train at 6.47am and hurriedly downloaded on Apple ITunes.  (I would have pre-ordered, but J and I have a family plan, and his card is attached to the account … which means I don’t know the security code.  Probably a good thing!)

From the very first second, I felt like my heart was going to explode with happiness and love.

I don’t know what it was about “Hamilton” that totally captured me on April 11th of this year.  I don’t know what even inspired me to listen to it.  Possibly the many posts on social media from my old theatre school mates raving about this new phenomenon.  It felt as though the whole world was coming down with ‘Hamilton Fever.’

The Mixtape is so interesting.  Part of the appeal of “Hamilton” is the idea that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a Broadway musical using the influence of hip hop (about a founding father nonetheless).  When I listened to the musical, it was so fresh and new — it dug it’s hooks into you, and didn’t let go.  The Mixtape is full of hip hop artists covering MUSICAL THEATRE SONGS.  I mean — first, how awesome?!? And then — it doesn’t get much nerdier than that.  Who would have thought? Each song is better than the last — each new interpretation adds dimension to songs I’ve been listening to for months.  Musical theatre is relevant again — in a big way.  I mean, the artists on this album –wow.

I cannot rave enough.  I really can’t.  What a great gift for a meds Friday.

 

the first of december

I woke up this morning; the sky was a pale, rain-washed blue and the air crisp in the early morning ~ a welcome change from yesterday’s muggy warmth.  December had begun.

Fourteen years ago, my grandfather passed away on December 1st.  I’d only known one grandfather ~ my mother’s father ~ and I hadn’t known him very well.  Three thousand miles of vast blue ocean lay between where I was born and raised and where my mother’s family lived.  But I’d loved my grandfather.  With his thick, white hair and equally thick, cable-knit sweaters.  He wore slacks, and a collared shirt every day that i knew him.  He took long walks around the walls of Berwick-Upon-Tweed with a pair of heavy binoculars (the better for bird-watching) and he spent his afternoons in the sitting room on the second floor of their home.  Sometimes reading with the radio crackling in the background.  Sometimes watching sport on the TV.  I watched several summer Olympics in that room with my Grandfather.

He’d been sick for a long time prior to leaving us all.  But death still catches everyone off -guard and death is irreversible.  Nothing could bring him back once he’d gone — not for an apology, a last cup of tea or round of golf.  Not for a final conversation, his words carefully chosen and his Scottish lilt humming like a lullaby.

I loved my Grandfather.  I loved his thoughtfulness, his quiet consideration.  When David and I were little (David was named for him), he took us to the library in Berwick and we were allowed to check out a book each.  I remember several inconsequential things about that book — that it had a huge silver square in the front cover (probably a scan, or tracking device for the library); that its inner cover was orange and yellow and the pictures were big, and colorful, the words large black font along the top.  I believe it was about dinosaurs (Dave & I liked dinosaurs).  But what I remember most was Grandpa allowing us to climb into his big arm-chair onto his lap, and wrapping his arms around us, he read us those books.  He explained the things that confused us. He taught us.

My grandfather truly valued education.  I think – maybe – he thrived on it.  All his children are very intelligent and curious.  Some use this gift to continue learning, some use it to control other people.  I guess that’s how intelligence works.

One of my very last conversations with him happened when I was twenty-one years old, and I’d come to visit my English family during my semester studying in Rome.  We were in the sitting room, Grandpa in his arm-chair, me on the sofa.  We were having tea.  He asked me about my studies.  What I was learning about while in Rome.  What I liked, what i didn’t.  We talked about the art of taking notes during class.  It was the most adult conversation I ever had with him.  Maybe he saw my mother in my eyes — in my smile.  Maybe he heard her in my words.  I think my mother is the most like my Grandfather of all five of her siblings.  (Well, the grandfather I knew.  He was different when they were young — damaged by the war, angry at life perhaps, for its cruelty).

I know he loved me.  He loved me, and he loved my brother – even when he didn’t understand us.  He loved my mother and he loved my father.  He did the best he could by us – even though we were so far away, so foreign to him.

The morning he died, we’d taken family pictures in the living room before Dave & I headed back to school.  My Mama Bear wanted to send them to him, to he and my Granny, since Grandpa was so sick, and in hospital in Melrose (for some reason that name sticks with me).  Dave and I got in the car and had a painfully long ride back to Penn State.  My mother called me — twice.  Once, to find out where I was, the second time when I was unpacking in my room.  I don’t remember what she said.  It was calm at first.  Her voice was even.  But I remember crumbling, as though my legs suddenly gave out.  I lay in a ball on the floor of my room.  The carpet was hunter green.  I cried for a long time.

I ate Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner that night.  Watched an episode of “Band of Brothers” with my roommate.  I don’t think I will ever forget those details.  The feeling of the carpet, the smell as I gasped for breaths while sobbing.  The texture of the blankets on the couch while I lay, nearly comatose, staring and not seeing the TV.

I think of him often.  And I always think of him today.  I also think of him on May 17th — his birthday and the day I graduated from college (a fitting tribute to him, I think).  I graduated six months after he died, so it was a bittersweet day — May 17, 2003.  But I am eternally grateful for the gifts he gave me.  Grateful for the DNA I have from him, for my love of academia, the way my brain works.  I am grateful for the time I had with him, for the memories that I will try to never lose.