returning

This morning, I returned to the mat for the first time in months.

It felt amazing.  And scary.

Things have changed so much in a year.  I’ve had to learn a lot about living with the limitations that now exist for me.  And the mental stuff that goes along with it.

I sometimes think that people think  they understand what I deal with on a daily basis.  And I appreciate the love and support.  I do.  But the truth is, no one, not even another person with MS, can totally understand my daily struggles.  As I talked through some things with my yoga instructor (my favorite, of past blog posts) I laughed.  A lot.

It sounds ridiculous to say some of the things I say when it comes to my symptoms.  It’s just … well, funny.  And what I also realized was that so many of these quirky things have become normal to me.  It’s just how things are.

Which I guess is progress.  Even though it doesn’t feel that way when things that used to come easily (oh, I don’t know, walking for example) are now a challenge.  Something I’m acutely aware of throughout the day.  Things that change how I make decisions.  How many blocks is it, how many things do I have to carry … how much time do I have/need?

What was wonderful about today’s return to yoga was feeling as though I was making a decision to nurture myself a little.  Work has been brutal and looks to remain brutal for the foreseeable future.  Which means I have to figure out a way to keep work from crippling me (literally ~ because stress is what makes me worse).  Choosing yoga and taking a short day is a step (albeit tiny) in the right direction.

Baby steps, right?

snow day

Today, as the flakes thickened in their race to the ground, I made my  escape from the office at 11am.  It wasn’t a terrible drive home ~ the roads weren’t super crowded but they also weren’t very good.  Zoinks.

My amazing husband was already at home, and had shoveled the driveway three times!!!  So all the crazy driving and abandoned vehicles and fender benders melted away as we made a nice comforting lunch of scrabby eggs and smoked salmon.  I admit that as the snow fell fast and furious this girl worked (and got a lot done, btw!).  But we also re-watched Silver Linings Playbook  and enjoyed a nice bottle of red (after I OD’d on tea).

Our friends (and landlords) invited us over for dinner and as usual, they put forth an incredible spread.  We chatted about life, and restaurants and film and food and wine as the snow continued to fall.  It was a gentle almost other-worldly magical.  Sometimes life happens like that.

I love snow.  Not for the standard reasons ~ work, and having a day off and all that.  Those things don’t really exist in the restaurant biz.  I love the quiet and the beauty ~ the excuse it gives us to all be at home and enjoy each other, and be snuggled and warm.

Today was good day.  Til tomorrow.

updates

Whew.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been here.  In the time I’ve been away I have been to the doctor, done a whole course of antibiotics, gotten an official raise (with a start date!), cleaned out all my kitchen drawers (the man did the cupboards) and made a delicious gluten-free macaroni and cheese (based on my mum’s recipe which can be found “In the Kitchen”) using quinoa pasta, gluten-free flour and oatmeal for the breadcrumb crust.  Delish.

I was re-visiting some of my recent posts, and thought it might be fun to do a little progress report.

In regards to being unplugged, I’ve found a nice little balance, and while I have moments when I really miss having easy access on my phone, I’m mostly glad that I’m restricted to my iPad and having a wireless network.  Makes me focus more on being in my life, rather than sharing a perspective of my life.  The thing is, some people have a real grasp of social media, and share so intelligently … and some people just aren’t as artistic.  I fall into the gray middle area (in my own opinion … I don’t think I’m always completely lame … But I’m certainly pedantic some of the time).  Having such easy access meant that sometimes, instead of enjoying something, I was more worried about ‘sharing’ it.  And that was the ultimate lame feeling for me, personally.

So that’s that.

Interestingly enough (on the subject of a recent blog about my twenties), an old co-worker was brought in for an interview with my company on Friday.  It was actually a little disheartening in terms of how it all played out.  I realized, in how this person reacted to me and treated me, that they had little to no respect for me as a person in the work force or even a human being.  I felt as though the bad choices I’d made were staring me in the face and while it brought me relief to know I’d climbed out of that part of my life, at the same time it didn’t make me feel very proud.  But as I chewed on it over the weekend, I came to some good conclusions ~ how I’d learned and grown and how this person didn’t seem to have progressed very much from the person I knew nearly eight years ago.  And while there was and remains no need to make a judgement in regard to anyone else’s life or accomplishments, it did  help me feel proud of the journey I’ve taken, and the things I’ve achieved.  I could have stayed that person eight years ago ~ lost, insecure, unsure.  But I didn’t.  Despite having some big challenges.  I became better than that.  In re-reading my post from earlier this month, this little occurrence has only reinforced how far I’ve come.

Next up: work. Work will always be a roller-coaster.  But my company celebrated the four-year anniversary of opening our doors on January 16th.  It seems crazy to me that I’ve been on the ride since the beginning ~ not only on the ride, but a  crucial element.  As downright frustrating as it can be at times, I’m also enormously proud of what we’ve accomplished and become.  And to be right on the cusp of opening our second location ~ very fulfilling (and completely exhausting!).  As absolutely devastating as some days can be (and trust me, they are) ~ in the end it’s so incredible to be able to take such ownership of something that began as a small space on a corner and grew into a staple of the city’s casual dining scene.  It’s just cool.

I had such a fun conversation with my Mama tonight, and it reinforced that she is the most wise person I know.  I was hemming and hawing about yet another conundrum (I believe I make myself a magnet for them) and she laughed and said (and I’m paraphrasing) ~ Life is hard.  For most people.  And we just have to take the cards we are dealt and get on with it.  It doesn’t help us any to over-share or wallow in our issues.  It’s better to have just a little bit of the old British stiff upper lip.  Of course if you find yourself in a place when you need to unburden, then you have those people in whom you can confide.  But there’s no need to share every trauma.  It doesn’t help anyone.  

She’s right.  I mean, I think it’s important to be in touch with and aware of your own personal struggles ~ but her words echoed a doctor who gave me some advice about my MS.  He said his sister beat breast cancer five years earlier. And she had all the tee-shirts and water bottles and bags and did the events and fundraising.  And he finally said to her ~ you’ve been cancer-free for five years.  You are defining yourself by a disease you beat.  And I support wearing the gear for an Awareness Walk, but not to define who you are.  You had breast cancer, it didn’t have you.   He smiled at me.  “Sort of like you have MS, but it shouldn’t have you.”  

Anyway, rambles.

Today wasn’t a bad day.  It was a pretty okay day.  Busy, and tiring.  But not so bad.  And I’m grateful for that.  Til tomorrow.

recovery

It’s been awhile since I’ve been totally wiped out ~ as in, bed all day and in and out of sleep.  But that was my day yesterday and for most of this morning.  Even now, curled on the couch as the sun streams through the windows … yeah, I’m still not feeling great.

So lame.

Remember as a kid, when being sick meant a mother or grandmother softly tucking the blankets around you, whispering softly that they loved you, making soup or toast or tea? It changes as an adult.  Luckily, I got sick on a weekend, so my husband tucked me in, whispered softly that he loved me and, when I was able to get up, made me pancakes for … well, the only meal I ate yesterday.

This morning the man headed out to run errands (he’s much more motivated than me) ~ I stayed at home, curled up with Lucy, half awake end half asleep watching an awesome Eagles (the band) documentary for the second time.  He takes stupid good care of me and came home with lunch ingredients, juice ingredients and other fun (yes, I said fun) things from the grocery store.

I think I’m a little loopy at the moment.

Which probably means that a doctor’s appointment is necessary.

It really sucks to be sick as a grown up.

por los buenos

Sometimes, it takes some harsh words to finally snap out of a funk.

I was daydreaming today about homes … which included a few (more than a few?) google searches and virtual tours and floor plans and gallery browses.  And since it hasn’t been the most uplifting week, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into self-pity.

Why wasn’t I where I wanted to be … why hadn’t I achieved what I wanted to achieve … why did everything feel so difficult, so challenging?

And then I wallowed some more.

Driving home, instead of listening to a good book and escaping into another world, I called the man and wallowed some more, sniffling and hiccupping into the phone.  He spoke purposefully but with compassion.  He said “Becoming miserable can happen to anyone. Staying miserable is our own fault.”

And he said it again as we met each other’s gaze over the kitchen island.

And I knew he was SO right.

The thing is, last year, as we launched into 2013, I thought so much about staying upbeat ~ about meeting my diagnosis head on and not allowing it to control me, or ruin me.

And then somewhere along the way, I lost that outlook.  I’m pretty sure it was when I broke my foot ~ which is sad, because that happened nearly seven months ago.  My attitude was compounded by other health stuff … which might have been triggered by my poor attitude.  Basically a vicious cycle of ‘ugh.’

Even just snapping out of it tonight has made me, in a small way, feel lighter.  It really is such a mental battle.  It’s about finding the positive, and working toward betterment rather than focusing on the negative and always seeing the short-comings.  I think being negative is so much easier ~ it stems from insecurity and feeling slighted or as though an injustice has been done.  It’s harder to always work for the good.  (Sidenote:  My acting teaching in college was big on ‘por los buenos’ … aka, for the good.  All character motivation was working por los buenos ~ something that helped make seemingly dark or bad characters have believable motivation and depth).  But the thing is, quality of life exists when focusing on life’s blessings rather than life’s curses.  And as difficult as that may be, I think with practice, it will get easier.  And hopefully both I and my beloved husband can find our way back to a better mental place.

the tricks of DNA

I had a fragmented idea of what I wanted to write about today … but I couldn’t find the start, I couldn’t see the picture.  So I began browsing the drafts that have been stored & forgotten (some for a very long time); begun and then neglected as my brain became hooked on something new.

I wrote the following in the wake of my cousin’s wedding (not especially long ago ~ the beginning of November 2013).  Re-reading it struck me, so I thought I’d share it as is, without adding to it, or fixing it.

“I was thinking this weekend ~ for various reasons ~ how little I know so many of my relatives.  My immediate family is fairly close ~ a nucleus including my parents, my mum’s twin sister, my brother, myself and my husby.  My father is an only child, and our tenuous relations with his side of the family ~ a huge web of Italian Americans ~ basically disappeared when my grandmother died in 2007.  My mother, one of five, but also a transplant to the United States, stays in relatively close contact with her siblings via email, but there’s a huge ocean and several seemingly insurmountable obstacles (such as vastly different cultures) that lie between our family and hers.  Add to this mixture the fact that we moved every two years (on average) for the majority of my youth, and it makes sense that we are close as a unit, but not as part of a larger tapestry.

Then consider other factors: age, religion, lifestyle … and all of a sudden, people who share your DNA look like strangers.  And feel that way, too.

My youngest cousin on my mother’s side was married last weekend ~ a much more traditional affair than the man and my celebration earlier this year.  She was a stunning bride, and I’m sure it was a hell of a party.  I’m sorry to have missed it.  But journeying to the UK, in this economic climate, while dealing with other (sort of big) factors just wasn’t in the cards.  I flipped through the limited pictures available, seeing my family all dolled up in their Sunday best, and I thought -not for the first time- that I barely knew them anymore.

Family is an interesting thing.  Mine -this side, obviously- is very, very English.  I looked at them, my mind full of our joint history, memories and conversations and correspondence.  And I thought how they didn’t know me at all either.”

cog in the wheel

Some days are harder than other days.

Recently, I’ve had a string of bad days and it’s hard to recover from that.

Last night I said to John ~ “Sometimes, after a difficult day, or a grueling meeting, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror I’m surprised that I’m not the ugliest hag of a troll with no brain whatsoever.  Because after spending too much time listening to how certain people talk to me, it’s hard to imagine NOT being the dumbest, ugliest, most clueless person ever.  Since that’s how I’m treated.”  And that can basically sum up a certain percentage of my days at work.

I think we all probably have days like that.  And then we come home, and make a comforting dinner, pour a restorative glass of wine, curl up to watch “Downton Abbey” … and for just a moment, things don’t seem so bad anymore.

And then the next day arrives with frightening speed.  And it just keeps happening … over, and over and over again.

It’s hard not to find some of one’s identity in the work we do, in the days spent with the same people ~ not, perhaps people that we would choose to socialize with, but people who make up the bigger picture of ‘work.’  And our self-confidence comes from that, from how well we do our jobs, from the feedback, from the way co-workers treat and interact with you.

But then there are those moments, when work has been challenging and long and exhausting, and you’re finally done, and sitting around with the group of people you’ve put all the blood sweat and tears in with … and there’s a camaraderie and an understanding.  And you know that even if you get annoyed or frustrated or just plain sick of these people, in the end, you all have each other’s back.  You’re friends on a different level, friends who all “get it.”  And that’s what makes all the other b.s. worth it.

 

 

the underbelly

Sometimes my brain catches a thought, and starts rolling with it … and then all of a sudden, I’m remembering things I haven’t thought of in years.

It can be a good thing ~ a fun thing.  Remembering the neighbor’s yard when I was five, and the three large stones that as kids, we named.  Thinking about the forts that my brother and I built in his closet when we lived in New Jersey, or the games we used to play on the staircases ~ ravenous crocodiles and alligators lurking on the bottom steps.

On the other hand, sometimes I remember things I’m not really proud of ~ moments in life when I wish I’d made a different decision, said a different thing, walked a different way.  Those trains of thought are uncomfortable, and humbling.

Something I began contemplating this morning was the idea of friendship.  I have had my fair share of friendships ~ good, bad, superficial, meaningful.  I guess it applies to relationships, too.  Some of my friendships have ended because I walked away, some because I was left and some were just mutual.  But isn’t it amazing, as life keeps rambling along, which friends have been around for most of the journey?

And, more pointedly, which are not?

I like being in my thirties ~ I feel more settled, more focused, more true to who I am.  I think, for most of my twenties I forgot ~ and after I forgot, I allowed (or couldn’t control?) my insecurities to run rampant and make (many) terrible decisions.  I think ~ once you lose your direction, your focus ~ if you don’t have good people around you, it’s really hard to find your way back.

And for a lot of time in my twenties, I didn’t have very good people around me.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate.  I’m sure to other people some of my former friends were, are and will continue to be good people.  But they weren’t good people or good friends to me.  And as I thought about all of that today, I got really disappointed in myself.

I very clearly remembered having moments when I wondered what happened to me ~ what happened to the person I’d been ‘before,’ the things I’d cared about and valued.  Thinking about those years of confusion and darkness was almost… sad.  And, while it doesn’t make me feel a lot better, thinking it through now makes it easier to see how I’d fallen into such a bad place   Some people head down a bad path, and never recover.  Potential is lost, and a human life becomes a cautionary tale.  I think there was a moment when I could have become stuck.  But I didn’t.  And even though remembering some of the things I did and decisions I made make me want to crawl into  a dark hole and never emerge, I guess I’m also glad that a point came when i decided I was done wasting my life away.

Friends are important.  Of course, family is as well, but friendship is something different, something precious.  I feel as though I’ve finally arrived at a place in my life when none of my friendships are toxic.  In a way, it’s sad that women are as vicious as we are ~ on the other hand, I know that the friends I have now are real, and true.  And they know and like the person I am ~ not the broken shell of a person people took advantage of for most of my twenties.

I’m glad to be where I am now.  I think I might not have found myself here if I hadn’t struggled through my twenties, fallen a thousand times and finally gotten back up the thousand and first.  But thinking too hard about it still hurts a little.  I could focus on the positive ~ I got through it, am a little bit stronger, a little bit smarter and a lot more aware of who I am.  But sometimes thinking of how many bad decisions I made, people I trusted … shudders.

On the plus side, it was all in the past.  And remembering it will hopefully help me from making those mistakes again.

 

sketches with words

Sometimes, when I’m alone, and sort of in my head, I see something, a moment happens, and I wish I could capture it with words.  I thought ~ maybe to get back to writing, to get back to hearing that creative voice in my head, I’d share some of those moments.

This was today.

It was early evening, the sun sinking in the sky, leaving swirls of rosy pinks and powder blues precipitating the inky darkness of a midwinter’s night.  I was driving home from the city, winding my way down the ribbon of Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill.  The river looked like glass with huge expanses covered in nearly transparent patches of ice.  Life felt calm, clear and crisp ~ like the air outside.

 

unplugged

Yesterday, as I took yet another break in my day to flip mindlessly through my phone, I realized that social media had once again begun eating up my life.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy scrolling through photos and seeing the way people I know view the world ~ their likes, experiences, children, adventures. Or sharing what I believe are adorable pics of my man, my pup, my life.  It’s great.  And I love being on top of the news via 140 characters. Or ‘shouting out into the universe’ random, sometimes pithy things that are on my mind. I even like old school FB, and reading people’s thoughts on, well, everything. Sometimes, I even share my own.  I love all of those things.

But here’s the flip side ~ the reason that I took social media off my phone.  Because on some level, I find it a little creepy.  There are people I haven’t seen in years, and through FB I know all about them … and yet, not because I’m in touch, or because they necessarily know that I’m reading all their updates (even though they are putting them out there for all to see) … but because I can, theoretically, know all about a person via their social media profile without putting any effort whatsoever into maintaining a friendship.  On top of that, instead of being ‘in‘ my life, I have moments when I take a picture, or type a thought that is nearly completely unrelated to anything I am doing ~ it just seemed photo/tweet-worthy.  So then, all of a sudden, I’m living my life for Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook.

I find all that a little weird.  And a little uncomfortable when I think too much about it.

And then I realize that instead of talking to the real, live people around me, I’m being anti-social and involved with my phone … and that just compounds the weird, uncomfortable thing.

Our culture is changing ~ that’s inevitable, and it’s, well, life.  Today I interviewed a man who was hoping, after finishing college, to study the psychology of social media on this first, incredibly technology-based generation.  Which I found fascinating, and so on point after my deletion of social media on my phone.  But it also made me wonder ~ are we on a path that will require social media to interact?  Is that where society is headed?  No longer knowing people face-to-face, but instead knowing the image they project through their online profile(s).

Listen, I’m not quitting completely ~ that would be crazy (especially in my line of work ~ and doesn’t that emphasize how important those avenues are after short amount of time in existence?).  But I do think that I allowed online living to take precedence when it shouldn’t ~ so now, when I have WiFi on my iPad, I’ll catch up on my feeds.  But otherwise, I want to spend time reading, and writing, and plunking away on my new keyboard.  And hopefully that means that the relationships I have are real, and when someone tells me a story, I haven’t already read/seen it online.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned.  But I’m okay with that.