staying true

I think, as we get older, we all start to feel infinitely more comfortable in our own skin.  We find strength in our decisions, who we have chosen to be as people, our values, our morals, our likes and dislikes.  It’s comforting.

It doesn’t mean that people don’t exist who try to shake our foundation, make us question the choices we’ve made.  Those people exist.  Maybe they are just completely convinced that there is no room in the world for an opinion that differs from their own, maybe they are utterly committed to their ‘rightness.’  Who knows.  I have no problem saying that sometimes, other people’s choices don’t make any sense to me.  But they don’t have to — it isn’t my life.  I feel as though some people never get to that conclusion.

But what is so sweet, so justifying, is a moment in life when the things you’ve been quietly questioning are re-affirmed, and you know (once again) that you believed the things that were important to you, that you had faith in the things that rang true to your conscience.

Hubs and I spent last weekend in New York City.  We had tickets to see ‘Hamilton’ and no other plans than to just enjoy being in NYC together for a little bit.  We had drinks at Rockefeller Center, we had dinner with actor friends of mine from college.  We ate awesome sushi at a hole in the wall restaurant right near the theatre district.  We saw ‘Hamilton.’  It was magical.  And it reminded me of parts of myself that I’d forgotten.  It reminded me of the love I had for so long for theatre.  That I still have.  It reminded me that no matter how beaten down I’d gotten over the past seven years, what always pulled me through was the doggedness I had in regards to what I believed.  Was I insecure?  Oh yes.  Did I over think pretty much everything?  Absolutely.  But was I always true to myself?  Yes.  I might not be proud of many things about myself — I might get frustrated, and beat myself down sometimes.  But my family –my parents, my grandmother, my brother, my aunts and uncles — they helped me form a rock solid foundation of who I am.  And I am so grateful for that.  It certainly doesn’t mean I won’t worry about things in the future.  Wonder if I’m making the right choices.  But I know that I am true to myself, in the end.  That’s how I sleep at night.  That’s how I get through the tough times and the challenges.

I believe in honestly.  I believe in loving people and treating them with dignity and respect.  When I find that I have trouble doing those things, I try to figure out why.  I believe in finding the positive.  Finding the hope, finding the happiness.  Through disease, surgeries, crisis and woe.  As my favorite acting teacher said in one of my first college acting classes, Por Los Buenos.  For the good.  We are all motivated by what we believe is ‘the good.’   (Although I do think that some people are super pre-occupied with ‘who has it worse and let me tell you why/how’).

And one more thing. Time. Time is the great healer and revealer.  With time, the truth comes.  You just have to have faith, and believe.

losing faith

I had an interesting conversation recently.  In it, the idea was posed that some people ‘push through’ and others give up.  I was taken aback by the statement, confused by its context and intent.  But after thinking about it — far too much, I might add — I realized this.

Sometimes it’s about whether you believe, or you have lost faith.

It’s very hard to ‘push through’ when you don’t believe anymore.  And sometimes, when your faith has been pushed to its very limits, and you lose the thread of the narrative, it’s hard to care anymore.

Once upon a time, I was handed a business in a banker’s box.  And over the course of seven years, I learned many things the hard way.  The stress was, at times, unbearable.  But I was proud of what I helped to build, and that made it possible to keep going.  I believed in it fundamentally.  It made the hard times worth the pain, and the great times even sweeter.  But when I began to lose my faith, when I started to not recognize what I thought I’d been part of, it made it challenging to keep going.

It’s hard to walk away from something that used to mean so much.  But I also believe that you have to take care of yourself.  And the best of life has yet to come — the best things are in the future, they are just around the next bend in the road.  It took me a minute to get my brain around my new reality.  I had to forgive myself, and also commend myself for making the best choice for my future.  Life isn’t easy.  But it can be so beautiful if you let it.

 

And ps.  Hubs and I are seeing ‘Hamilton’ in two days.  I cannot wait!

rise up

John and I arrived as dusk was settling in on Sunday.  First, we checked me into the Family Lodge and then headed to the hospital proper to get him registered and into his room.  I’m starting to learn NIH.  It’s somewhat strange and surreal.

Despite telling us multiple times she would not be here, as we rounded the corner of admissions, John’s mother sat in a chair, surrounded by multiple bags of ‘stuff’ (her quilting, etc).  She smiled widely at John.  My heart bottomed out.

It has been a long few days, and yet this morning, as I rushed to get over to John’s room before the nurses arrived to take him down to surgery and worried about logistics of things that -in the end- won’t matter and I will not remember, I worried about her, sitting two floors below in John’s father’s room, fretting about her husband and her son.

John’s mother and I are like oil and water.  We have never understood each other, and that is unlikely to change over time. We come from different places, we see the world through different lenses.  Nine years in, It is about rubbing along as comfortably as possible since we have deep and unbridled love for the same man.  Her son.  My husband.

**

I’ve sat in this surgical waiting room twice before — first, for Alan’s surgery several years ago.  John and I were together then.  And then last December I sat here alone, as I do today, as John undergoes the same surgery he underwent last December.  It felt much less intimidating today, I understood what was happening better, the nurses were more friendly.  I am sending texts to John’s mother, as she sits with Alan upstairs in his room.

Healthcare is a bitch.  I mean, it’s great, wonderful — sometimes ground-breaking and life-changing.  But it’s exhausting.  Hallways upon hallways of neutral colors, stale air pumping through vents.  Dry erase boards covered in red or black ink.  People on cell phones, their minds pre-occupied with something else, somewhere else.

It is nearly impossible to stay upbeat, positive, optimistic.  Throw in an unexpected mother-in-law who already grates on your skin like nails on a chalkboard, and it feels like climbing Mount Everest every day. Sisyphus eternally pushing a boulder in Hades.  (Yes, I know my husband will not like this blog post).

The thing is, it’s a struggle.  It’s a struggle that I shoulder because I love my husband more than anything in the entire world.  Because, despite the challenges of life, of my disease, the insidious M.S. with its joys of fatigue and spotty vision and muscle spasms — there is nothing in my life without my husband.  His is my North Star.  And because of that, because of that infinite love, I try very hard to rise up every day.  To face the challenges presented by his disease, by his mother, by life.  I do not always succeed. And I am not always graceful.  Sometimes I falter, sometimes I crack and break.  Sometimes tears come, without warning, as frustration and fear grip my heart and lungs.  As I feel lost and alone, whipped around by unending winds of change and darkness.  But still.  The sun rises.  It sets.  Time marches on.

As humans, it’s all we can do.  Rise up for the people we love.

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.