priorities

So, obviously, there has to come a moment when the tides change … when all that felt it was falling into a pit begins to float back up.

I feel as though John and I have spent this year being tested ~ emotionally, physically, as individuals and as a couple.  There have been amazing ups, but there have also been devastating downs.

I’d like to turn the corner … I’d like to feel content and motivated and at peace with life again.  I think, just for a moment before things changed, I felt as though I’d taken control of my life.  I felt invested in my work, inspired by my goals and as though I was living a life I could be proud of.  I haven’t felt that way in what feels like a long time.

It’s easy to feel sad, and to sooth that sadness with excuses and actions you may otherwise eschew.  I wanted to be living a healthy life, a full life, a purpose-driven life.  But being healthy is harder, requires more effort than just being ordinary.  Eating fast food, and drinking a lot of wine.  Those things are temporary (and easy) band aids for the damage and pain beneath the surface.

The man printed an article a few days ago.  It’s still sitting on our countertop, and it has been constantly in my thoughts.  The author proposed a theory ~ that while we all want to be ‘happier’ and make choices to live a ‘happier’ life, what we should really consider is what we are willing to suffer to achieve it.

I don’t think I stated that very clearly, so I’ll try another way.  What kind of suffering are we willing to endure to create and maintain the ‘happiness’ we all strive for.  I want to be thinner and in shape ~ but I hit snooze on my alarm every morning, and every evening the couch seems vastly preferable to the gym after a long work day and an even longer commute home.  So that ‘suffering’ ~ the early arisal or the push at the end of the day ~ I have shown definitively that I’m not willing to endure that to achieve my ‘happiness.’

But I do endure the relentless commute to and from the city each day for a job I feel frustrated by and unhappy in ~ so really, I am the master of my own fate.

I know that making myself and my health a priority has to rank above my job.  I know that intellectually, but emotionally, it’s frightening.  In an economic climate such as todays, with the job market the way it is, I am afraid to lose my job (more than I am afraid to put on weight, apparently).

I do feel that these thoughts, this jigsaw puzzle I am trying to solve, is a step in the right direction.  I want to be proactive, I want to put the effort forth for the things I care about.  I just need to figure out how to do it ~ how to organize my life to meet my own needs, and thus create my own ‘happiness.’  I need to figure out how to effectively prioritize.

I’ll keep you updated as to how it goes.

honors

Yesterday, I became an officially official Godmother.

My great friend and her husband -the parents of ridiculously beautiful children – honored me by asking if I would be Godmother to their son.  I think I can’t quite explain adequately how incredible it was to be asked, and how full of love my heart is, and will always remain, for my friend and her gorgeous family.

Listen, life isn’t always a smooth ride, and I would be telling a huge fib if I pretended that Minda and I had an easy journey as friends.  We didn’t.  But I think the truth is at the bottom of it, at the heart of the struggle.  We lived together for a total of two and a half years … as real, true adults ~ and ps. that ain’t bad! We managed to remain friends through the transition from college, through a nearly two year separation, the fickleness of female friendship, three weddings and a partridge in a pear tree.  (Juuust kidding about the pear tree.).

To be the only person (out of four) who isn’t related by blood to be her child’s Godparent?  Yeah, that’s for real.

I remember when we moved in together, and our goal to have our first ‘grown-up’ apartment.  (We achieved this, thanks mainly to Minda).  I remember a snow storm, watching movies curled up under blankets on the couch and great food (I didn’t cook at the time, so it was all Minda).  I remember the other things too – when we fought or vehemently disagreed.  But here we are, over ten years later, still friends.  And that speaks more to me than a small incident years ago.  We chose -as individuals and as friends – to let the small things slide and stay friends because the big things were more important.

I wonder, sometimes, how similar female friendship is to sisterhood.  I don’t have a sister, so my knowledge is limited.  But I’ve always explained Jess & my friendship as a sort of sisterhood.  Even when we want to kill each other, we love each other more.

It was such a great honor to become a Godmother and I hope that I am better to my Godson than my Godparents were to me (aka, absent.  For my whole life).  But mostly, it makes me feel as though Minda decided to actually make our friendship a family. And I love her and thank her for that.

 

the constant search

I looked in the mirror the other day -close on the heels of my last blog post, and my public declaration of love for musical theatre – and I wondered, with sadness, where I’d gone.

Huge, dark circles accentuated my tired, opaque eyes. Ashen skin, dull colorless hair.  Just a walking declaration of fatigue, and life kicking my butt.   Not only life knocking me around, but succumbing to it.  I looked and felt completely beaten down, defeated and … forlorn?  I’m struggling to find precisely the right word and failing -so I will settle for ‘forlorn.’

I will obviously not deny that this has been quite a challenging year thus far.  And it doesn’t seem to be letting up very much.  I thought last year was bad … but I think this one triumphs in that department.   In the beginning I tried valiantly to be positive and upbeat – focusing on healthy eating, and living normally with MS.  Plus, I got married this year, and that was a beautiful, incredibly special day.

And then I broke my foot.

And MS started to take my life away.

And work became unbearable on so many different levels.

And suddenly, I had lost any drive or desire to find the positive, do anything or go anywhere.  Walking was challenging, seeing was challenging … everything felt like an insurmountable obstacle.  I was ready to give up.

I don’t mean this to be ‘oh woe is me’ or ‘please pity me.’  It sounds that way, and there is a part of my soul that yearns for comfort, for soft words and sympathy to make this easier – less unbearably difficult.  But another part of me – the one I got from my mother, and Jennie J, and all the tough ladies whose DNA I share – says I will not be beaten.  I will not lie down and give up.  And becoming a broken human constantly in need of fixing isn’t okay.

Many years ago I made a mistake.  I’ve been paying for it ever since, in icy cold words begrudgingly directed in my general direction, in subtle jabs at who I am, where I am from and the choices I have made.  Fifteen years hasn’t eased the apparent injustice I caused, or the color of my character in certain people’s eyes.  (Black, in case you were wondering.  Although it should have been sort of obvious).

That moment, so many years ago, when I made what felt like a fairly innocent, naive mistake, changed my life.  Not just the course of it, but the damage the aftermath did to my character, my confidence and my very being.  I started living my life trying to make up for the terrible, horrible “crimes” I committed against others.

The manner in which I reacted to the criticism of my very being has morphed over time.  I am not sure I should still be apologizing — and I certainly should NEVER have apologized for certain aspects of my actions (or more specifically, myself).  But the consequences of how it affected me continue to be far-reaching.

So how does this all tie together?

I don’t know.  I think it all came to a head about a week ago.  I got some news from my brother (now far away in Texas starting a new life), I wrote that blog post marking an important moment for me, I received another lovely email from a family member, and work nearly broke me.

When I looked in the mirror and saw that sad reflection staring back at me with emotionless eyes, I felt overwhelming sad … I didn’t know who that woman was – I didn’t recognize myself.  I was tired of feeling so terrible, so broken, so angry, so slighted, so unheard.  I was tired of the pain in my body from stress, disuse and anxiety.  I was tired of seeing myself in the mirror and not knowing myself anymore.

I’m also a little tired of apologizing.  So pardon me while I have a small, much-needed moment.

I’m an American, and I’m proud of being an American.  I’m proud of my country and the noble men and women who strived to make it a better place to live than where they were born.  It is a great, magnificent country full of people with big personalities, pride in their heritage and pride in their country.  Anyone who has only spent a day or two here, or a week long vacation, doesn’t have any idea of the greatness that still exists in this nation.  We are not Hollywood, we are not a stereotype, and we are certainly not less than any other country in the world.

I have made mistakes.  And I have let them define me for far too long.  Here’s the truth – we all make mistakes.  We all make wrong choices, say the wrong thing, pick the wrong person to marry.  Shit happens.  It happens every day, and it happens to most people, and a lot of times, it happens more than once.  Holding any person accountable for a mistake, or a misunderstanding without any real knowledge of who that person is – is absolutely ridiculous.  Especially for fifteen years.  And you can tell me I need to let it go, or tell me that it’s ‘just how it is’.  But here’s the thing – I have tried to let it go.  I’m not the one still taking shots at me – all I’ve ever done is apologize and try to be polite and the picture of contrition.  And I’m done now.  It’s eating away at my soul.

Life is effing hard.  And the people that we all choose to surround ourselves with should lift us up.  They should be the kind of people you can break down in front of, who hear you and who love you without judgement.  They should encourage you to chase your dreams, and make you laugh until your face hurts.  Those are the people worth fighting for.

Today, after overcoming my paralyzing fear of going new places (which has compounded with walking & eyesight problems) i went to the gym and I swam.  I swam for forty minutes and my arms ached and I could barely breath ~ but memories came flooding back of swim practices and high school and pushing myself even when I felt like I couldn’t go anymore.  It felt like a relief.  And in the water, my legs don’t fail me the way they do on the ground ~ and my vision (despite working out) is crystal clear.

I stood in the bathroom today, and my skin had  a little more color, and my hair was shiny at the roots, and I didn’t feel so weighed down.  Exercise is a miraculous thing.  I believe in it with as much conviction as I believe in vegetables, green juice and smoothies. I believe these things are the rungs on the wall that will help me climb out of the despair I’ve found myself in.  I am clinging to that, and the phenomenal way I felt (and out of shape, if we’re being totally honest) in the pool today.  And to the idea that I’m done apologizing for who I am.  I’m really not that bad.

 

who I am

I had one of the most random conversations yesterday.  And when I relayed it to the man while cooking dinner tonight, I was reminded acutely of the oddity of it all.

Without getting weighed down by too many (perhaps unnecessary) details, a girl in my office stated that she had been to three shows so far this week and just as people followed Phish, she would follow DJs if she could.  Sort of random, I know, but at the time (while still a wholly odd sentiment for me to wrap my head around) not completely unfounded.  She then continued, talking about her love of house music, and how it (and this is my wording, and how I understood what she was trying to say, as I really can’t remember her exact words) reached her soul, her very being.  It woke her up when she was tired, inspired her, spoke to her.  It almost became a sales pitch, as though she was trying to convince me that if only I gave it a listen, I would feel exactly the same way.

“I’m not embarrassed to admit it.  I totally love it.”  She smiled and laughed a little, tossing her hair over her shoulder. 

Initially, I felt slightly disconnected from the conversation ~ almost an interloper.  I looked up and smiled weakly back at her, shrugging.  Our other two co-workers were simultaneously declaring both their love/disdain for house music, stating their cases emphatically.  She looked expectantly to me, to hear where I came down on the issue.

“Listen, I listen to musical theatre every day, so all I have to say is, whatever makes you happy.”  

She laughed, as though that were infinitely more ridiculous on every level than her love of house music and DJs.  I felt a little stung, and then reminded myself that I was at the mecca of ‘judgement central’ (aka, the restaurant industry), raised an eyebrow and went back to work.

Here’s what it made me think today.  I am who I am.  I’m a girl who grew up in a very protected environment, who believed the commercials of a fried egg being your brain on drugs, who followed (and still follows) rules because, well, that’s the rule … a girl who fell in love with Andrew Lloyd Weber at the tender age of five, and the majesty of his music.  A girl whose entire music collection, until her first year of  college, consisted nearly solely of musical theater.

That’s who I am.  Well, part of who I am.

And in the past, I’ve let people tease me, belittle me for what I loved, for who I am.  And I felt proud of myself yesterday, for that small passing moment when I didn’t deny who I was, or pretend I should check out house music.

I’ve done it in the past.  Rap and punk, psychobilly and R & B.  Some of it was alright.  But none of it was me … not like folk, and acoustic singer song-writers, country and bluegrass, classical and opera and musical theater.

I’ve had the idea of ‘who I am’ on my mind recently, for various reasons.  And the thought that I’ve come back to time and again, is how much more comfortable life is when I’m not pretending to be something I’m not.

I like musical theatre and old movies and the comfort of fantasy tales and good, human interest books.  I’m never going to be a hard-edged person ~ I’m always going to be the naive one who believes face value even when I shouldn’t.  I believe that hard work and a sharp intellect are more valuable than loud words and bullying (probably why I haven’t advanced further in my career).  I believe in merit and loyalty; family and true friends.  I like who I am ~ my imperfect, quirky self.  And that, after so many years of questioning and uncertainty, feels pretty okay.

thought chewing

Oftentimes, I arrive at my blog either void of anything thoughtful or provoking to say, or full of things which have been occupying my mind for hours; thoughts or grievances or gratitudes that have spent the day swirling around my brain.  Sometimes I’m in the car, and I realize I haven’t heard a word of my book, or a word of the story on NPR because I have become so caught up and lost in my thoughts.

Sometimes, despite my fingers itching to type, I put a lid on it; knowing that the blog isn’t the proper forum to address certain issues.  Other times, by the time I find myself with time or motivation to write, I’ve lost the passion or intensity of what I wanted to say.  That’s always sort of a bummer.

Today, I’m in a gray area, sort of able to know what I want to say, and sort of unsure if I want to put it here for anyone to read.  (PS.  I know I don’t have a ton of readers, but I have a few … and those eyes are precious to me).

Last night, as the husby and I settled into the sofa to wind down the evening, he said something sort of assumed, but also sort of shocking.  He said we’d never leave the Pennsylvania area.  Despite knowing his answer, I asked why.  His response was as I expected.  And then the evening moved on, the sentiment was forgotten and we enjoyed a sitcom marathon before heading to bed at the lame hour of 9pm.

It wasn’t until I was driving to work this morning, my mind full of all sorts of things having to do with the company I work for, my future and the business’ future, that I remembered the man’s statement from the night before.

And I got annoyed.

Weird, right?

His reason for committing to Pennsylvania was neither wrong, unexpected, misguided or untrue.  And yet, it made me feel trapped.  It made me question who I was making life decisions for: myself, or others.  I realized, as I intensely chewed on this train of thought, that I wasn’t ready to start making sacrifices or life compromises for anyone other than myself or my husband.  I wasn’t ready to close the door on opportunities or adventures for any reason that didn’t stem directly from me.

And I thought how selfish that was ~ but somehow couldn’t stop feeling that way.

I thought about how every single person who chooses to become a parent inherently makes the choice that some other human is prioritized above themselves.  I thought how amazing that sort of commitment was; how altruistic.  And then I wondered if I could ever do it.

I still can’t seem to get my head around it, come to terms with all of it.  At some point, we all inherit responsibilities that weren’t ours to begin with; that’s sort of the way of life.  It feels unfair that some people shoulder these burdens at a much younger age than others, but there it is.  I know that my husband is a much more generous, giving person than I am; that is who he is, has always been and will always be.  That is how he understands the responsibilities we have moving forward and embraces them the best he can, while I squirm and pout and get resentful.

I haven’t found a way to accept these things yet, but I know I will eventually; I don’t really have a choice.  I guess what makes humanity beautiful is that we are each individuals and we all have our virtues and vices.  For me, this is about facing the ugliness of my soul, and figuring out how to change it.

taking stock

At this very moment, the hubs and I are ensconced on the couch watching football and snuggling with Lucy Lou.  She is not as responsive to the Steelers as she is to the Giants, but I can’t totally blame her.  Her very first month with us included a Giants Super Bowl win and an abundance of Giants TV specials and paraphernalia around the house.  That, and inherently, she’s her daddy’s girl.

It was a good weekend ~ beginning with John arriving home on Friday, spending some great quality time with friends last night and rounding out with having an incredibly productive day today.  I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and contentedness when football revved up onscreen, and I found myself making a mid-afternoon snack in our -insanely!- organized and prepped kitchen, the late afternoon sun slanting through the windows.  I have to admit that those moments (during the week) are few and far between.  And yet, so often on the weekends, I find them to be in abundance.  This morning, hot Starbucks in hand, walking Lucy through the woods; this afternoon as we organized our grocery shopping, prepped lunches, dinners and juice for the week; twilight, as Lucy curled up between us on the couch, at peace amid her mummy and daddy.  Last night, sitting around the fire pit, enjoying light-hearted conversation with friends; driving home through the farmland, the stars twinkling over the meadows.  Weekends, now more than ever, get me through the week … either remembering a good one, or anticipating the next.

It’s been a challenging year ~ for me, both personally and professionally.  On Friday I moved my work offices for the fifth time in less than four years.  Exhausting.  I also spoke with a nurse from the third -yes, third- medical therapy my MS doctor has prescribed me  in less than a year.   ( have moments when I long for life to be normal, regular.  And then I realize that it won’t ever really  be normal again.  After all, I won’t ever NOT have MS.  So what I need to do is catalog days like today, full of happiness and contentment, and remind myself that this is normal now.  And it’s not so bad.