Tag Archives: growth

Artistic growth

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As I continue with the art challenge to post pictures of my artwork for 6 days on my facebook page, I am having an internal conversation with self.

I look at the scenes and see how much I’ve grown as an artist, and always, as a woman.   I have been trying to find my very first painting to post, alongside my last.   I think what I need to do, for my own sake, is to repaint an earlier piece.

I know it’s important that I honor every part of my journey.   I am mostly self taught, with a few classes with awesome teachers.  I’m now looking to take some classes on painting animals, because I’m enjoying it very much.  The roosters I’ve been painting have come easy for me, but when you add the body, the sprawling and presence of many beautiful feathers, I become perplexed and sometimes, overwhelmed.  But I know I can do it, I can learn this.  I know i will.

Most of my earlier Santa’s have taken on a provocative look.   I will share this lightly.   Most of my Santa’s noses ended up looking like male genitalia.   My students and I would laugh over it, and many comical, highly amusing stories have come from my earlier work.   Perhaps now I can paint noses as I’d have to reach deep into my long term memory to paint male genitalia!   I say that laughing, laughing more, and laughing loudly.

Just like our growth as a person, an artist has to start somewhere.    The ideas and things that I have in my head that I’ve yet to put to canvas are so different from my paintings of past.  But that’s because I’ve changed, we all change.   I’m not the same person I was when I designed and painted prior.   I see things differently, and my colors and interests have evolved.   Honor the process, Donna, honor the process.

God speed to you and yours

Like sand through the hourglass

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The past couple weeks I’ve had to take a hiatus from working on my house, given that I lifted my mantle off the gas fireplace and wrenched my back.   So I have found myself sorting, tossing, and thus, revisiting my life with notebooks of writing, poems, boxes of pics, and more.  Where the hell did the last 54 years of my life go?

Further depth came after the tragedies in Orlando.   I will not even go here.  I will say that I have been and am praying for all those affected by such monstrosities.   I am saddened beyond words, of what has and is transpiring in this country, in this world.   I pray for ALL of us.

But I will admit, there is something more going on with me.   I don’t fully understand it, nor am I questioning it, but I am at peace with so much, even in spite of all that is going bad in this world.   I FEEL something coming.   I have random thoughts of what it may be, but I’m not going to go here either.  What I want to share is, I’m accepting myself for who I am, where I’ve been, and finding peace with all that I wanted to be, do, but probably never will.

While looking at pictures from my past, I feel the moment, I recall the times, the feelings, the good, the bad, and the beautiful.   I am aligning with who I am.   And while I want to lose 75 lbs, and more, I am finding peace even with that.  What if I don’t?  Do I want to spend another minute of what’s left of my life worrying about or condemning myself for NOT  BEING PERFECT?

It’s interesting, the story of my life told in pictures.   I have known great love.  I have known great pain.  I have accomplished a lot on my own, without formal education, and I have met SOOO many wonderful people in my life.   Many friends have come and gone, and that’s okay, it is just the ebb and flow of life.  Today, tonight, as I write this blog, I am right with all that has transpired in my life.   I have found peace, and for that I AM TRULY THANKFUL.  If my life ends tomorrow, I am okay with it, because this place where I am is amazing.

I am grateful I was there with my sisters through the illnesses that stripped them of life.  I am grateful that I spent almost a decade of my life with a man who shortly thereafter, drank himself to death.  I am grateful for this “fat” that encompasses my body, because it helps me feel protected from an uncertain world.    Feeling safe anywhere today, is a big thing.   But most importantly to me, I am thankful that I am a good, honest, hard working person who finds pleasure in the simplest of things, in nature.   I don’t spend my time wishing I was in a relationship, or with anyone else, I am happy with my life.   I have learned the most through every tragedy and laughed immensely through much.

In many ways, where I am right now reminds me of surviving and completion of treatment for breast cancer.  It was freeing.   I had (and still have) no room in my life for luxury drama, or bull shit.   It’s actually a little frightening how vocal I can be now regarding this.   The tiny filter that I once had is almost entirely invisible now.   The older I get, the freer I feel about speaking my truth.

Long gone are the days when I worried about someone liking me, or what they thought of me.   I’m right with myself, with God.   I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and it feels good.

I hope that you are finding peace in your life.  I hope you are, too, realizing how precious life is.   How every second of every day is not promised to anyone, and in the blink of an eye your life, and those lives around you, can be altered drastically.  Anyone hearing of the massacre in Orlando, can you help but think this?

Sending you love, light, and as I mentioned earlier, prayers for the world we live in.

 

My dad

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In a couple of months my father will turn 81.  My father, a Navy vet who served his country, sent home money to his parents to help raise his younger siblings.  He is one of six children, the second oldest.

He and my mother had five children together.  Their oldest, my sister Karen, took ill at the age of six with meningitis. From that diagnosis she spent months in a coma, came out of it with the ability to only move her eyes. Intensive rehab brought her back from that, but she started seizing, (Seizure disorder) having numerous grand mal seizures a day, which reared her paralyzed on her left side, unable to speak, walk. The seizures slowly and continually kept taking from her.

My father became an apprentice, and learned to be an incredible carpenter.  He did this so that he could build a home for us.  He (and my mother) built two beautiful homes. He worked more hours in one week then I’ve probably ever put into a job in a month, and I don’t consider myself lazy.  A very meticulous carpenter, and a house filled with four other children, weekend runs to pick up my sister and bring her home and back, proved difficult for everyone, including Karen.  The more seizures my sister had, the more it took from her.   I cannot imagine having a child and having such an awful thing happen to her.  I cannot imagine what it must have been like having made the decision to turn your very ill and medically needy daughter over to the ward of the state.   I remember judging my parents.  Asking them “If I get sick, will you send me away, too?”   Now I cringe at the very thought of asking that.  I cringe at the slightest thought that they could have chosen better.  Who the hell am I to ask such a question?   How much their hearts must have hurt.  But responsibility of four other children, and having worked night and day to pay off medical bills that today would have been covered by insurance, my parents made a difficult choice.  A choice that I believe was right for Karen.  A choice that I now believe gave me and my siblings, a more “normal” life.  If you can define normal.

My father has a wonderful sense of humor.  My whole family does, really.    And no matter whose company I am in, it is with my family that the laughter is the strongest, loudest.   I learned at a very young age that laughter heals.

My father became a plumbers apprentice and then went on to work for a company who sent him (foreman) and his crew many hours away, which they drove back and forth each day.  My father made a good living.  We always had a balanced nutritious meal on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and even “space” of our own.  We never needed for anything, and were taught that it was because of my fathers hard work, that we had the good life we had.    We also were taught that we lived in the best country in the world, and that our freedom is due to the many men (and now women) who served our country, many whom never made it home.  It’s sort of ironic how the man who gave most of his life to a job for his family, had at one point became invisible, absent.  But working for this company enabled him to give his children a good life, a good start.   His absence was only because he was working to give us this.  The company didn’t appreciate him.  They offered his little for pension.  But he kept going, day after day, for his family.  I know not how to live so selflessly.

He was our loudest fan at softball games, my brothers hockey games.   I always knew I was loved, and while I didn’t agree or like some decisions he made, including ending a 27 year marriage to my mother, I humbly have long since realized, I have no right to judge him or her on that, either.  What do I know about

He and my youngest sister, Darlene, were particularly close.   He admitted to the three of us remaining children last year “Okay, okay, Darlene was my favorite!”   He looked at us like it was an awful thing to say, only to find the three of us bent over laughing.   No shit, Sherlock!   The truth is, they were great buds.  They fished together, they did so much together.  It is nice to look at pictures of the two of them together.   The way Dad looked at her, she was “it”!   And this is not to imply he doesn’t love us, or look at us with swelling pride.   They had something very special.     I remember sitting next to my sister when she made the phone call to dad to tell him that her cancer treatment wasn’t working.  She said “I’m so sorry dad”.    I recall a conversation she and I had, one of our last and she said “You know Donna, he came to every ball game of mine”.  She was talking about after my parents split.  “He would get there late from work, but he always came”.   I am teary eyed thinking about her smile when she said that.  For whatever he didn’t do right (you know what I mean), being her loyal, faithful fan made it ALL right.  My sister was an old soul.  There was and would never be any jealousy there.  She was ALL OF OUR favorite.

I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing of late.     I do not know what it is like to be my dad.    I know what it is like to watch him age, lose physical and mental strength.  I sometimes have to look away so he doesn’t see my tears.  And yet, I know how very fortunate I am that at the age of 53, I still have both my parents.

I always thought I knew it all.   And for a long time I chased “his approval” foolishly.   That ended about a decade ago when I was unpacking my van, having been travel teaching.  He was helping me.  I pulled out a new painting and he looked at it, didn’t say anything, just looked.    I was tired, disappointed that he didn’t respond the way I wanted him to.  “Am I EVER going to do anything that makes you proud?”  I said with the sharpness of a razor.  I will never forget his expression.   His jaw lay on his chest.  It was that very moment I learned, my dad would probably never shower me with the compliments the way I once wanted him to, but he was proud of me.  And the chip I had on MY shoulder that day, hurt my dad.   “Of course I’m proud of you, Donna.  I love your artwork, I think you are very talented and I’m proud of all of my children.”   I have not, nor will I ever again question his pride for me.     I am SO over judging my parents on anything.  Thank God!   And now, I am working on doing the same for myself.   The crap we get into our heads!  It’s static!    It’s all just frigan static!

It’s funny as I age and realize just what an ass I have been in my life.  I’ve put my parents through some major worry, particularly when it comes to depression and mental illness.  I remember my second hospitalization.  My sister was with me at the phone.  She had brought me a teddy bear, I named him “Arthur”.  I think I was 24.   “Dad, I need to tell you that I’m in the Brattleboro Retreat.   I am getting help for my depression”.   “You have to pull yourself up by your boot straps Donna!”.   Of course I took that wrong, and he, being the age group that he was, wasn’t as educated on mental illness as he is now, 30 years later.     I was so hurt and angry.   Now I know, in HIS head and heart he was fearful.   My father “pulled himself up by his boot straps” over and over and over his entire life, to give to his children.    His heart, his head spoke from his experience in life, to hide the fear he had of what I would or have done to myself.  He wasn’t judging.  He was saying the only thing he knew to do!

I’m not sure why it’s taken me all these years to figure out how intelligent both my parents were and are.  And as I watch them losing ground, I am fearful of losing them.    I’ve been single for over a decade now.   My dad has always been there for me, to help me in any and all ways he can.   “I’m sorry, Donna, that I was focused on your brother’s education, and not yours.   I ignorantly thought that you girls would be taken care of, in marriage”.      There was once a time, and probably too long a period of time, that it angered me that I was raised with this mentality.  That the only way I would have a home is to have a husband.   But that has long since passed.   I am responsible for my choices.  I am responsible for marrying children, two of them!  I am responsible for where I am in my life.   If I had to do it all over again, I would have sought out college.   I know I could have made better choices for myself, could be financially secure, but I’ve also come to realize that even that isn’t as important as being a good person.   Doing my best, day in and day out, and living within the morals that I was raised and were taught.    The day I bought my house out from my ex-husband was one of the proudest days of my life.  I AM responsible.   I AM who I am because of the stable childhood I was blessed with, I learned the importance of family, and while I have no children or even husband of my own, I sometimes think about how difficult it is to keep my head above water.   I take pride in caring for and giving my animals a wonderful home.   And that is NOTHING compared to what my dad gave.    I am the strong woman I am today BECAUSE of my experiences.    I understand, now, why at the age of 30 when my 10 year marriage ended, how come that was so hard for me.  Because I felt like I was nothing without someone.    Oh my god have I grown.  Thank God!    And for all the things I thought my mom or dad did wrong, they did TWENTY TIMES that right!

I’ve watched my parents bury two daughters, their oldest and their youngest.  No parent should have to bury a child, but sadly, well, too many do.  I’ve watched both my parents battle cancer, and seen the anguish and hell it brought them to watch their three remaining children battle it too.     My dad has not had an easy life.  Like all of us if he had it to do over again, I’m sure he would have made some different choices, but my dad?  He’s only human.   My dad has led a good, honest life.  He knows what it is like to work hard for your family, to start over, and he will always remain “our father” in worry for his children.  My dad, what a great human he is!  He is visiting with my sister right now in NC.  I know he chose fathers day visit to mask the fact that I am his new favorite!   🙂

I have been blessed in life with an honorable man as my dad.  He really is my hero.    I am very grateful that I have had 53 years with my dad.   I am the good person I am today largely due to the good person my dad is.  Thank you dad.  I love you and you will always be my hero, and I, your little girl.

Signs…..

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Ahhhh, internet.  I have been without internet for a while.   I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed surfing the net for just about anything that I wanted to know.   It’s been a very long winter here in New England.    COLD!    I keep my thermostat at 50-52 degrees, use a duraflame heater I bought last Fall.  It’s supposed to cost .25c an hour.   We shall see.    This has been one, if not the hardest winter I recall.    So very grateful my girlfriend and I put plastic on my decrypted windows.    I snuggle on the couch crocheting (because the weight of whatever I’m working on adds warmth) wearing a scarf, hat, wrapped in blankets.   Sounds ridiculous it is what it is.  It’s been  a VERY long winter.   Oodles of snow, ice.   Just as I started to feel relief with daylight savings time, warmer weather, I am now facing roof leaks, and the snow that the beautiful sun is dissolving is seeping into my cellar.    I’m so friggan over winter.   GO AWAY!   Bring on the mud!   My driveway looks like an ice rink.  There is ice probably 4″ thick.    Joy, joy, oh joy.   Still, I have gratitude for having food, clothing, shelter.  Maslow was a smart man, eh?   I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I learned that a friends house was destroyed by fire.   I guess I don’t have it too bad after all? Have been struggling emotionally, which isn’t abnormal but it’s been more severe of late.   Any New Englander would tell you that they are ready for Spring, I’m so not alone.   But this is deeper than cabin fever.      I’ve made some decisions that, if I follow through, will improve the quality of my life.   These days I find myself asking that question often.  “Will buying this (or that) improve the quality of my life?    Will this action bring me peace? serenity?   And if it doesn’t, I walk away.  I’m getting too old to be heading in the backwards direction! It came to me why I’m struggling so.   I know living in the past is fruitless and hijacks the present.  I’ve been working on changing that.   Though there are still things from my past that I cannot get past, I find it interesting how our subconscious mind “remembers”.     There is no escaping it, so I guess the answer for me is to do my best, acknowledge when these feelings, thoughts come up, and then try to detach from it, to not give it additional power.    I’m sure you would agree, much easier said than done! I’ve got Spotify blaring I the background.   Music, oh beloved music, I shudder to think what life would be like without it!  I have missed   My comfort, joy, muse…. I believe in signs.   I believe in messages from heaven (and probably some from hell!)  🙂   This evening my girlfriend treated me to dinner.  We went to one of my favorites, our favorites “Friendly’s”.   While enjoying both food and company I noticed a young couple come into the restaurant.   The girl was wearing a sweatshirt with “Wolfeboro” on it, with a moose embroidered underneath.    This was a definite sign for me.  A much needed and appreciated one.   Both serving significant meaning to me, and offering comfort through the difficult right now.   Thank you, D… Thank you!   I love you ! Are you open to messages and gifts from the “other side”?  I once would have cared whether you think I’m nuts or not, and now?   Now I don’t.     Progress!  Even if our beliefs differ, that doesn’t mean I don’t wish you love, as I do.   I wish you all goodness, peace.  I’m grateful to be at a place now where I recognize, we all have our individual journeys, lessons.  I’m grateful I have no desire to control another’s path, and I’m working on my critical judgment of others, and of myself.    I want to walk through the rest of my life with peace, hope and faith that I will be given what I need to become the person I want to be, am supposed to be.   I want to treat myself with the same love and respect I have for loved ones.   It’s time!

How did I get this age?

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While gazing out the window today through the brilliant green branches that hover near, I thought about time. How time eludes me, how slow it goes when times are tough, and how quickly when they are good. Yet still, even after the storm passes it seemed to pass at a very fast pace, just not as quickly as when all is well, flows smoothly.
Have you ever turned on the television and seen how your favorite actors or actresses have aged? Or on facebook see posts of gadgets that you used as a child and they are now “Remember when”? Looking at your family, your friends and wonder how the heck did they get old when I am still young, spry and have elasticity in my skin? But seriously, I looked down on an 8x magnifying mirror the other day and almost had a heart attack. Who is that? Who is that woman in my rear view window?
I think of myself as in my 30’s, only with more aches and pains. Last night I looked at single men in my age group on Match dot com and couldn’t believe how old they looked. How is it possible that I am 52? How? And yet no matter how old I get, my sister will always be 5 years older than me! Saving grace.
I have on several occasions been asked “If you had it to do over again, what would you change?” Well, for one, that BIG hair in the 80’s! I wouldn’t have gotten married so young. I would have waited until my 30’s, or even 40’s. I would have gone to college to be a graphic designer or fashion designer. It comes natural to me, but without proper training, well. I needn’t say more. I have sketches of sweaters and vests I plan to make this Fall/Winter. I have a book that chapters have been written and rewritten, and still… unfinished. I have paintings that are 75% finished, not many, but a few. I have blogs in draft form that I never published, edited, followed through. Sometimes I think that by not finishing all of these things, most certainly the book I’ve been writing for years and years, that I won’t die before I do it. A twisted sort of thinking that God will not take me before I finish these things. HA! Who am I fooling?
Now, as I sit here writing this, looking around at how my living room is decorated, with solids, plaids and florals, I wonder…Does my home reflect my age? Or more? Does my home look like an 80 year old woman lives here? Does it reflect my artistic abilities? The settled life that I lead? And on the flip side of this, what does my future hold? Will I finish the projects above or find myself living my dream(s)? Or a better question, will I jump off the cliff into faith and chase them?
Obviously today I am reflective. I am grateful for how things are today. As imperfect as they are, my life is good. Of course there is always room for self-improvement and even some material things, but my life doesn’t nor has it revolved around such. I say I don’t measure success in material form, but if I didn’t, would I want more? Is it wrong to want more?
So now I shall go put the freshly washed sheets on my bed. I will put on my 2.5 reading glasses, settle into a good book, which surprisingly to me is the Bible. I have tried over the years to do just so, but could not understand or interpret it and now it suddenly makes sense. I will plaster my legs with arthritis creme, and hopefully fall asleep for a lengthy, restful period of time. Before I close my eyes for the final time, I shall thank and praise God for my life, for my family and friends, all that I have, and my health. I will ask for guidance for what I am supposed to do tomorrow, and for strength and fortitude to face something I must face tomorrow… and when and if I wake up in the morning, I will give praise for another day, another opportunity to work on my unfinished projects, plans, another opportunity to expand my horizons, to spend time with those I love, for another opportunity to see childhood toys in antique shops. I will not look down on an 8x magnifying mirror tomorrow, I will however honor the skin that shows aging and give thanks for the anti aging creme that I love and sell. I will honor my aches and pains, put a smile on my face, walk through the challenges with my head held high with the grace of an aging woman, not the emotions of a child…and I shall make the most of this day. Have a great day!

Tall goings vs short comings

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The past week has been trying, challenging, and disappointing to me.   In reviewing this week I know why I have had the desire to build a cabin in the woods and live far away from others.  Safe from the harm of insincerity, of cruelty, of pain.

As a kid my mother used to tell me “If you have one true friend in the world, you have it all”.  Well, it took me almost 50 years to figure out that my mother did in fact know what she was talking about throughout my life, and that this statement of hers was beyond truthful.

I was never really close to a lot of people.   A high school sweetheart whom I’d rather swallow mosquitos than spend time with now.   As an adult I have happened along many wonderful people, many to which I call my friend.    What does being my friend mean to me?   Well, what does it mean to YOU?

Life is about growth.  This I believe.   If I have to be under foot or on the phone with someone every day, every week, every month, it will never work.  Why?  Because right or wrong, I keep a distance for myself, for my own sanity, for my own protection or self preservation.     I’m not unique in my experiences, I’ve been hurt, burned and bruised by others.    For me I would rather put my energy into my art, my talents than risk losing another piece of my heart.   Sadly, I do not want to be like this.   I don’t believe that is what God would want from me.  Every day I struggle with the choice to let others into my life, into my heart.

Today I was crushed when someone I thought was a friend slammed me into a corner, accusing me of something that I am not guilty of.   Wow!   At first I took it with my tail between my legs.  A few minutes later I was ticked off and hurt.   Anger is hard for me.  I am learning how to deal with it.  In past I have swallowed oodles of food or whatever other addiction I picked up or vacillated through.  None of them work anymore.  None of them fill the void of loneliness, of heart-break, of fear.    I believe it’s supposed to be this way.  Why?  So that I can once again climb into the cart of self improvement, or growth.  So that I can live, learn and laugh through the many trials and tribulations that life dishes out.    I have fought against black and white thinking my whole life.   Either something really was, or it really wasn’t.   Finding the grey areas have taken time, patience.  There is no quick fix to this.  This thinking, as destructive as it can be to myself, I am realizing is also destructive towards others.   We all have our shortcomings.  We all have our challenges, our struggles.

My life will go on.   I will heal from the hurt as I always have.   I will continue on the path that I’ve worked on the majority of my life – self improvement, growth.   I will learn from this, and with God’s help, I will not let this take me back a few steps unless it is to gain momentum to move forward.

Today is no different than the lessons of yesteryear, perhaps a bit of a refresher?   Today I will drop a few tears, say a few prayers and tomorrow, when I awake, hopefully I will feel better.  Life goes on.  Life always goes on even when you think it’s cruel, when you’ve experienced an enormous loss and still, the birds chirp.  How can that be?   This is life.  This is a lesson in life.  Some of us get it sooner than later.   Either way, it doesn’t change the lesson, but the intensity of it.

Yes, I’m angry.  I’m very angry.  My therapist would tell me this is good.   I am sitting with this anger, sitting with this disappointment.    Such is life.  Such is life.

 

 

Beyond Cancer

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I’m sitting in my oncologists office in the fast paced city of Boston.   A routine checkup, I have every 6 months.  The trip down was uneventful, unless you count construction and detours and a LOT of rain!  As I was driving down I wondered what my kid sister would say or think of how much I’ve grown.  Once petrified of driving in unknown places, you can only imagine the anxiety that would consume my thoughts when I had to drive in Boston.  Well, long gone are THOSE days!   My sister was my main encourager, my witness in life.   She was also a mighty fine driver when it came to driving me into places I dared not enter! Five years ago my fear of driving in Boston ended when I was making weekly visits for breast reconstruction.   Long gone I tell you, Long gone!     I will now share with you the “survivor skills” of driving in Boston.   First, play your favorite music and very loud!   This is calming and also means you cannot hear others honking at you!    Second, wear sunglasses!   This way they do not get eye contact with you so the majority of them will not risk getting into an accident and third?   Have a gps.  It may loop you around and around like musical chairs, but it can offer a sense of confidence.

On the elevator coming up to the 9th floor in the Yawkey Building at Massachusetts General Hospital I shared the elevator with a nice looking young man, I would guess in his 30’s.    He asked if I was having a good day.  I replied “Yes!  Today my oncologist is going to tell me I’m still cancer free!”  He smiled the widest grin and said “Alright!!!!!!!”  He opened his arms to hug me and I obliged.  “Do you believe in God?” he asked.   My reply, “I don’t walk a step without him!”.  What a nice encounter!

The sweetest woman just came over to offer me refreshments.   We had the nicest chat.   Pushing the refreshment cart around in a cancer treatment center as large as this, I’m sure she has seen much.  God bless her.   I know her sweet smile has always brought a smile to my face over the years.  I’m sure without even knowing it, she has helped many.   Her smile, her kindness makes a difference in the world!    Never underestimate the power of a smile, a friendly gesture!

My oncologist is running an hour behind, no big deal.   I said a prayer for those she is helping, and for the emergency this morning that backed up her appointments.   It could be ME in there!   Take all the time you want, Dr. Kuter.  You will hear no disappointing words from me!    I love my oncologist.  She is a wonderful person and likewise, doctor.   Never rushes you out, sits as long as you need her to answer questions, etc.   Besides, this hour gives me a chance to jot down my thoughts, write this blog.

As mentioned above I have experienced much growth.   I can tell you that I wouldn’t wish the journey of cancer on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for the world.  I’ve learned that it’s the toughest times that bring the most growth and when you come out of it, it’s amazing how perspective changes, at least that is how it is with me.  As I sit here looking around at the people sitting in this waiting room it’s obvious, no one wants to be here.   No one.   But you make the best of what you’ve got, if you’re smart that is!  Sometimes I had to stoop very low to experience humility, thus gratitude.   These days I’m grateful every day for so many things and even in that I know there is so much more I should be grateful for!

I am writing this blog on my iphone.   I am hardly efficient with this keyboard.  I probably should proof this blog but its time to close it.   A young woman who is looking mighty scared just arrived and sat near me.  I think it’s time to give back what was given to me.  I remember the fear I had when I first walked into this hospital.  I remember, also, the kindness of others, the seasoned “survivors” who shared their story with me and brought some solace to a restless mind and soul.    If the auto correct has done it’s job I am sure there will be major errors.  Just know if it said something about a sex change, it’s not true!   My oh my how messed up auto correct can be, but it can add a lot of spice too!

I sure hope you are having a great day.  I am!    Today my oncologist is going to tell me I’m still cancer free!   Can it get any better than that?

 

 

The familiar driveway….

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As I drove out, looking at the beautiful, old brick buildings with black shutters I thought about my history here.  My grandparents both worked here.  My grandfather as a haircutter and my grandmother in the laundry department.   My grandfather would tell us that crazy people lived there.    He shared how they would have to tie them up, how they were locked in rooms, which was sadly true, but I think he embellished to scare the crap out of us.    He liked doing that.

I have driven in and out this driveway now too many times to count.  Starting in the 80’s for a few years weekly or biweekly, then sporadically over the years.  I’ve been pretty steady the past couple of years going once or twice a week, sometimes three times.  I lived there for 2-3 weeks a couple years ago this month, and back in the late 80’s.

Today I drove out thinking how different I feel now.   I’m becoming a person who has boundaries, who has coping skills, who for the past couple days is very excited about life.   Today I am not consumed with pain, distraught from loss, depressed to a point I could not function.  Today I am vibrant, I am very much alive and I am very grateful for my therapist, psychiatrist, very grateful.   I’m in my 50’s, I want the rest of my life to be peaceful, serene, I want to throw away the wet blanket of depression and be happy.  Today I am.

By now you’ve figured out, it is a mental health hospital.   When my grandparents worked there the ignorance of mental illness was immense.   Patients with mental illnesses are no longer treated like they were then.   It wasn’t just this hospital but all.  Thank god for awareness, for research, for advanced education and treatment available today for those with mental illness(s).    The stigma remains, and ignorance is always present in any aspect of life.

In 1988 I was hospitalized there for my 2nd severe clinical depression.   Back then you could have day passes, where as now it isn’t allowed.  Well, on my day pass I spent the day with my then husband.   Anyway, the depression was still weighing heavy.  Upon discharge I went immediately into outpatient therapy.   Thus started the difficult journey of anti depressants.   The side effects, the month it takes to kick in, what will insurance pay for, what can I live with?   A few weeks after discharge I asked my psychiatrist if the med I was on would alter my menses.  Nope.   The woman who wasn’t able to have children from disease in my teens, surgery after surgery… well, she was surprisingly pregnant.  I went cold turkey from my meds.  Was so sick, a mess, my psychiatrist was upset because you are supposed to ween off such heavy drugs.   I will share with you that my psychiatrist at the time, researched and suggested EST (Electric Shock Treatment).  I was a mess, but I couldn’t do this.  I was pregnant.   Talk about an “awakening”.   “One flew over the cuckoos nest” flashed in and out.  Nope… let’s find another way.

Weeks later I miscarried.  What a whirlwind, and then plummeted lower than I thought possible.    I could go on and on, just don’t care to.   Not even sure why I’m sharing this today, I haven’t thought about this in years.   It’s funny all the thoughts and memories that flash before me in a seconds time.

Let’s move ahead to today.  To driving out the driveway, smiling, accompanying Bob Dylan, happy.

This sweatshirt USED to say "VERMONT"!

This sweatshirt USED to say “VERMONT”!

I drove out happy and a person who has direction, gratitude for where I am right now, and hopeful that the next time (not to be negative) the clinical depression comes to bite me in the ass, I will already be in treatment and have learned coping skills, warning signs, things I can do every day to help myself.    I am very very grateful.

On my drive home I thought about how fortunate I have been to have the care I have and am receiving.   I no longer feel “less than” anyone else because I struggle with depression, anxiety, and ADHD which was diagnosed just this past year.   I don’t feel shame or embarrassment, thus why I share such personal things.   I am not unique, I am of a large population of people who struggle with mental illness.   Today?  Today I feel like a person who is doing her best, given the cards dealt, and today?  Today I am doing well!!!  Today I am ready to rejoin the world, my career, and even thinking about perhaps dating.  Wouldn’t that be something!     I’m aware that the “waiting for the shoe to drop” cynical thoughts are present, but this morning, waking to familiar and frequent dread, I was able to use the skills I’ve learned and turn my day around.   HUGE!  HUGE!  We’re talking HUGE!

I am grateful, I am focused.   I know this isn’t just a fluke, this is the result of hard work, changing my behaviors, thoughts.   I hope I remember, the next time this shit knocks on my door (which could very well be tomorrow) how to help myself, how to bypass the crap, how to merge from this hellacious road into Hope Lane.   Gratitude.   Self respective, worth, and even some confidence!  Who would have thunk?

As I’m getting ready to end this blog “The Circle Of Life” came on.  I smiled.  Yep, “The Circle Of Life!”   As I drove out, looking at the beautiful, old brick buildings with black shutters I thought about my history here………. so so many.

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Which came first, being chicken or the ego?

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For those of you who have read my blog, you know I am a fan of the ID (Investigation Discovery) channel.   This morning I was doing some housework and “listening”.   The commentator shared a comment that struck me to a point of heightened eyebrows.   He said “If his reputation is damaged, his life is over”…which ended up being the motive for killing his soon to be ex wife.    I sat down, grabbed the remote control, rewound it…Yep, that was what I heard.  “If his reputation is damaged, his life is over”.

Too many times on these programs the motive is to hide a secret, a dirty secret.   I didn’t listen to what he was hiding, I didn’t care.  This phrase just struck me.  “If his reputation is damaged, his life is over”.   Really?

I thought of how stupid that comment was.    Mind you, I am not underestimating the mentality or ego driven homicides that happen everyday.   I think the word “narcissism” can be used to describe many of these murderers, these criminals.   Narcissism not being quite as cold as evil.   So why did that comment bug me?

It is simple.  It has been the roughest, most difficult times in my life when I experience the most growth.  It is when I am humbled that I become one with my gratitude.  My mind isn’t bouncing from here to there, with a tongue that flippantly says “I am grateful…”.  The truth is, I am grateful daily, for the things I do recognize as gifts in my life.   But when I am humbled, when I am scraping bottom and feeling like my happiness is gone forever, that my life now has no purpose, that my pain will never end, my bruised ego gets pushed to the side.  What replaces it, at first, is a steady flow of self pity.  But eventually that gets old and I’m forced to look at my situation, my shortcomings, my problems head on.   The very thing that displaces my hurt ego has the impetus to become an eventful, meaningful, powerful change in my perspective, thus my life.

I recall two occasions in my early 30’s when I went through what I then called “hell”.  One being a divorce from my second husband with whom I had been married for 10 years.    Now, I was working full time, I had good benefits, I was receiving good pay, but his “threats” to sell the house out from under me ruled my mind.   Between the loss of love, betrayal, and images of a cheating spouse in which I had compromised too much over the relationship (basically myself) and the loss of my home being threatened, what was “clear” and indeed a lie was that “my happiness, my life is over”.

As I think about that now I shake my head, in fact I am right now.   Much worse things happened to me in life, and while not invalidating the pain of a broken marriage, it was a time of incredible growth, painstaking growth.   My girlfriend Janice was my saving grace during this time.  Ever my confidant, my friend, my support, I doubt I would have made it through without her.  Not because it was insurmountable but because my unhealthy mental state was leading me down suicide alley.  My crushed ego, my “security”, my life had been turned upside down, thus my thinking not only what would obviously be unsettling, but the mindset in itself was a mine field.  I was my own worst enemy.

Twenty years later, another long term relationship having ended, a new career in the arts which I seeked out, I realize that what was totally devastating then, was the beginning of my life!   Engulfed in misery and pain, it can only last so long before one self destructs or can no longer look at themselves in the mirror.   I certainly didn’t pull myself out of this by myself.  I was given people, places, things that put me in alignment with my desires IF I dared to step away from my sorry self loathing, pain.   The event of this painful divorce helped ready me for the next major change in my life.

What that divorce brought me was the beginning of understanding, there is no security in marriage.  There really is no security in any relationship except your relationship with God, source, whom or whatever you call it.    As difficult as this time was in my life, it would later seem insignificant to things that happened in my life.      It was the beginning of my paving out my life in the terms I wanted it, what I wanted to do, to become aligned with that which I believe I was born to do.   I don’t believe we have one purpose but many.   That time in my life, that separation, divorce actually became my security!     I survived what I thought I never would, and not only that, became a better person.   I was being “pushed” to the next phase of my life.  All I had to do was show up!   But how difficult that can be when we are in despair.

So the comment “If his reputation was lost, his life was over” really made me think about how grateful I am for the things in which dropped me to my knees.    I am grateful I was humbled, I am grateful that I felt humiliated and embarrassed and 100 other things.   My life today, my security today is not based on another person, and while I am considered poor financially, my life is rich with color, family and friends.

I seldom carry “secrets”.  I have learned that we become as sick as our secrets.  I share openly events, both good and bad in my blog.   Chuckling as I recall a male friend saying to me “For someone who is afraid of intimacy you sure do share some personal things in your blog!”   I looked at him and said “Well, I wouldn’t talk about my sex life… even if I had one!”

We are all one.   A person’s financial wealth may societally be high on the totem pole, but that doesn’t make them a better person, or exempt from loss, illnesses, pain.    Perhaps one of the most significantly positive events in their life could be LOSING that societal “security”.  As there really is no security in that.   We are all one in the same.  It is not only basic needs that uniforms our lives similar.    We may have different colored skin, drive different cars, live in smaller or bigger houses, and for some, boxes, we are all one.    We may only be an event, a thought away from new perspective, a perspective that probably will not come without painful consequences, but our lives as a result of this could very well in fact become more purposeful, more meaningful.

I often say that I wouldn’t wish the journey of cancer on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for the world.    Sharing my life’s journey with others is in itself, humbling, but what another person thinks of me no longer rocks the core of my existence.   If nothing else my words are there to help another whom is walking a similar journey.  We are all one, we are all susceptible to things we fear (or don’t fear), and we are all a work in progress.

As has been proven repeatedly to me in my life… when I am aligned all that I need is put in front of me.  After a day of thinking about this, I logged into facebook and read an excerpt from Dr. Wayne Dyer’s new book “I can see clearly now” which speaks of this very thing but much more eloquently! 😉  Validation, a sign, proof for me that I am on the right track.  I am right where I am supposed to be.  My thinking is clear and my perspective on healthy ground.

Building a foundation

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November came rolling in with the speed of lightning.  Where oh where did this year go?  It’s already November!  The time where I start reviewing my year, my accomplishments, my experiences, and start thinking about what I want to do NEXT year.    Good god I can’t believe how quickly life seems to be flying by.

With decisions to make, I took a breather from it today and rested.   Do you feel guilty when you rest?  I do, I feel like I have to be accomplishing something though my intellect knows, that isn’t the case.

Feeling fairly insecure these days.    Time to pull my act together and figure out what’s shaking.

Here is todays thought…. I am building a house.  All start from bottom.    If I put in a cheesy foundation, no matter what I build on top of it is at risk of falling.  But I am excited!  I want to build that patio off my bedroom, add a loft, beautiful windows towards the top.   In my excitement I jump ahead, I start working on the things that I am excited about.   Then, something happens, and I am brought back to ground level, to the cheesy foundation I built on.   Here’s the good thing.  It isn’t a loss, it just needs to be reinforced, it needs honing, attention, strengthening.   Then I can build onto it, 10 flights high if I want, all with patios, solariums, anything I can dream.   I will remind myself of this when I feel myself stepping backwards.  If it’s one of two steps, is that a bad thing, really?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s stepping back, reassessing, strengthening my foundation.  If I fly 10-12 steps backwards, then I need to concern myself, but not with one or two.  Sometimes it takes just that to get our bearings, perhaps a new view of it all.   Sometimes when I step back I can see that clearly the basis on which I built my life was and is healthy, other times there are things that I need to work on.  Nothing is a total loss, nothing is a total failure.  Even with failure I remind myself, can you call anything a failure that you work hard on?  That you take a risk at?  That you try for?  Failure, to me, is not trying, living in the fear, the what if’s.  

Soon I will be taking another leap into the unknown, unknown even to me at the moment.   I am fighting it, my hands clenched onto my yesterdays or onto things that are comfortable, familiar, things that I love, but I know that God doesn’t shut a door without opening a window… I know that if I stop resisting whatever it is I am resisting my life will go smoother, my soul will be settled instead of searching…  I am right where I am supposed to be.   I am right where I am supposed to be.

So, I’m thinking of reinforcing the wooden, pretty foundation with steel.  That will withstand everything!  That will keep me only moving forward, upwards…. Um, no.   First off, it would block the beauty of the wood that I so love, (it’s so easy to take what we love and lose site of it), and secondly, do I want a foundation that can never be altered?  What if I want to build a new house, start a new life…will the steel keep me trapped into my past?

Back to the wooden drawing board, but with a smile on my face.   Now I can step backwards and examine my bottom floor knowing it is built on not just wood, but the strength, the disappointments, the difficulties, the smooth times.   It is not a borrowed foundation, or a facet, but the foundation of my life that I revisit from time to time, it reminds me who I am, where I came from, what I have done… and then I can look to my future with stability.  Though ever so easy, am I looking so much into tomorrow that I am not standing in today???????   “What do I want to do, where do I want to go, now?”    We’re told hindsight is always 20/20.  Yep, it is.  So stepping back a bit is not a bad thing, but an opportunity to look at the whole picture, and hopefully, each visit, recognizing growth from the time before.  Today is all I have, what am I going to do with it?  Am I working towards a dream? Am I at minimum working in the direction I wish to go?  Am I appreciating today, the present?  My past is but a lesson, it is not a gps to my future.  I need to remind myself of this.  Yes, some things come back to haunt me, but perhaps I need to learn something else from whatever it is resurfacing?  

Throwing you a hammer, apron and nails to build your foundation on, or at minimum, revisit it! 🙂