Tag Archives: self love

Who am I if not a teaching artist?

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Here I sit on a Saturday night with my animals and a dictionary I bought in 1984 as companions. 30 years ago? Where the hell has 30 years gone?

I am amongst change, and for the most part, choosing to make these changes. There is truly much excitement, happiness, a new challenge is exciting and I will grow from this, become a better person. But I have realized that my identity, my self worth is tied up in what I have done for the past 15 years of my life. Who am I if I’m not a teaching artist? A publishing artist? A self employed artist?

I remind myself that no matter where I go or what I do, I will always be an artist. It is up to me to keep my hands engaged with creativity, which I am pretty good at doing so. I design jewelry, I write, I bead, I paint, I draw, yada yada yada. Am I poo pooing my own talents? I know I have in past. In my teens and twenties I thought everyone could do what I do, that there was nothing special about my abilities. In my 30’s I realized, I was different. I realized that the years that I spent feeling “different” than my siblings, than my friends, than school mates, thinking different, coming alive at night and sleepy in the mornings, a lifetime of being called “overly sensitive or emotional”…. well, that is all part of who I am and who I was designed to be. And perhaps my feeling different than others was all a self centered narcissistic thought process?

Here’s the thing. I’m confident that I can be successful at that which I am choosing to participate in, that which I am shifting my focus and committing to. I KNOW I can… I already am! I see the opportunity, I have the vision, I was guided here, I WANT this! So why am I questioning my identity? Why is it (if it really is) wrapped up in what I have done in my past.

I guess it’s normal to feel this way, or to be thinking this way. I guess it’s because in some way I’m walking away from what I once believed was my “purpose”. Why can’t I have more than one purpose in my life? Why do I question that my purpose will not reveal itself to me just as it has done in past? And then again, will my future endeavor be much different than my past? Perhaps not with brush in hand, but with my heart, my outreaching arms?

In past I have habitually given more of myself than I had to give. In relationships, in work, in all. My passion provided me with the endurance to do this. Perhaps it is aging? Perhaps it is being guided (which I do believe is true) that I am shifting away from that which I know to that which I do not know. But then again, as a person with a sixth (and a sick) sense, I truly believe this is the natural evolution for me. This is what I’m supposed to do.

I remember in my 20s I was constantly seeking purpose. It was ridiculous. As I aligned with that which I was being guided to, I didn’t question it. I just “knew” and all that was laid out in front of me provided the path to purpose.

I am grateful I no longer see myself only being worthy in a relationship. I have, and what I hope will be the rest of my life, realized that being in a relationship, a committed relationship is certainly nice, and would fill lonely times, but it does no longer defines me. I am not who I am because of who I am with. My sense of self, my identity is not as someone’s girlfriend, wife, fiancé. I guess that is why I’m feeling tripped up about my identity being tied up in my accomplishments as an artist, as a teaching artist. The truth is, I will hold dear to me all the years, every student (well, minus a couple) that I had the privilege to teach, to introduce them to their creative side that many never knew they had. What a beautiful thing! So many wonderful memories, so many wonderful friends. And I’m not planning on leaving this industry totally, but certainly stepping away from it on a much larger scale than I have in past.

I’ve known for several years that I want to teach art, painting, drawing, whatever it may be, to cancer patients. I want to provide them with something fun, something healing as they go through the many challenges of treatment. This is how I want to teach now. I have not the means to do so yet, but I will. If it’s Gods will, I will. Am I feeling guilty that I’ve chosen to now seek financial stability in my life? I want to live out my days with no worries of disconnects, overdrafts. Do I feel like I am selling myself out? Hell, who knows. I don’t think so. Just as I have always known there was something else out there for me, and I am having a lot of fun in doing so. I have a reunion with old friends, meeting new ones… I AM happy with what I am doing…. so why am I feeling this conflict within myself?

I have been particularly bad at giving due credit to difficult days. When sick, or tired I rarely would attribute these things to my foul mood, or my lack of ambition. It was because I was lazy, or because I was bad, wrong, yada yada yada. You cannot see this, but I am sitting here nodding. Perhaps this is just a difficult day? Perhaps I am tired? Perhaps I am getting ill? It doesn’t have to be something monumental, nor do I need to be critical of myself. It just IS how I am feeling today!

I love it when people who hardly know me will “diagnose” my feelings. Seriously, like really? The thing is, I can be this way with others! I think I know what is best for them and I’m sure in some cases, I do! It’s much easier to see another person’s problems and solutions to those problems than to brave my own.

I have been thinking today that what if my purpose is to just be? What if I take all the pressures of perfection, of production out of my life and just wake up each day, take it as it comes, and do my best and feel that my best IS good enough?

Now, see, aren’t you glad you stopped by to read this sorted tale of confusion? I was asked the other day how I was….. My reply was “Well, given that my biggest problem today is deciding whether to keep my hair long or cut it short again, I think I’m doing VERY WELL!” Tis true. If that is the only thing on my mind, then I have a pretty good life, don’t I? So am I CREATING this internal conflict to sabotage my happiness? Oh yeah, I’m fairly adept at that. I think we all can be.

Because I am changing directions of my sails doesn’t take from me who I am. My god given talents as an artist will remain and I will still delve into them, perhaps enjoy them more without deadlines! Another thing I have done in my past is taken whatever enjoyable thing I was doing and turned it into a business. Seriously! I loved to crochet, so I took it the next level and published with Leisure Arts, McCall’s… I loved floral arranging so I became a department head and full time designer doing such! I saw decorative painting and said “OMG, I can do this!” So I did! I love beading, designing jewelry, so let’s start selling it! I love to write, so I am working on a book and going to write articles for women’s magazines. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with doing these things. For one, it kept me well stocked in supplies thus assuring my “fix”. Good God, even flea marketing with girlfriends became a business. They will tell you how well I did at turning over furniture and making a profit on it…. even after using it for a couple of years!

But the constant shifting of furniture, my three season porch constantly filled with my next “treasure”… it grew old. I now want to simplify my life, quit the hustle and bustle of producing and accepting each day as a gift, and as a person worthy of that gift without accomplishing, or conquering the world?

Many times I have heard “I wish I were an artist, I wish I were you, I wish I had your life”… Well, you know, I do have a good life. When all is said and done, I do have a good life. But being a creative soul comes with it’s pitfalls too. When I am not able to create, I become restless, irritable. I think of Ernest Hemingway, and how deadly his writer’s block became. Well that and a whole lot of booze. I’m not implying that I would think about slicing my wrist if I had artists block (again), but let’s just say you wouldn’t want to live with me then! OMG…. Oh my God! What if I am feeling this way today because I fear that I will become that bitchy artist who does not produce? And more? What if I am feeling this way today because I have only ever based my self worth on what I accomplish? Well, holy shit Sherlock! Perhaps I’m onto something!

Now, as Scarlet O’Hara said…. “Tomorrow is another day”…. let’s see what it brings! I do know one thing. I am planning to take back my maiden name and ditch the name that came with the ex husband. He’s not around now, so why should his name be? I think I’m coming home. I think the changing sails will bring new adventures, memories, and a return to myself. I only kept his name because it was my “published” name. That sucker is on it’s way out!

Look at all the open windows!

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Even sporting a migraine hangover I am excited about a business venture I have rejoined.  Thank God it’s a kick butt product because I’m not a sales person.  This product sells itself.  If you are interested in real results from an anti aging crème, part time flexible work, set your own pace, let me know.   I’m not going to plaster this daily in my blogs or on my facebook.  Not my style.   I am excited because the potential here is limitless.   I am excited because I am once again believing that my life can and will change for the better!   I’m the only one who can change my life and guess what?  I’m going to do it!  Want to do so with me?

Today I recognized that the once all consuming and encompassing thoughts about my addiction have slowed down.  Likewise, the buttons that others pushed in me, which served as an excuse, or where I went to escape from the discomfort… Well, these buttons have slowed way down.  I am speaking my truth, standing up for myself when I feel the need, thus lessening my need to get a “fix”.   I am  slowly gaining control of what once ruled and dictated my life.  I am grateful, extremely grateful.

I’ve also been thinking about how much I’ve grown, and how much I intend of growing.   If only I could have “one more conversation” with those I’ve loved, those I’ve lost.   My growth has turned up new findings, a better understanding of things in which I could not understand prior.   Satisfaction and self pride with the work I’m doing, what I’m learning, the goals I am setting… I want to share with them.  If only.  So now I need to open up my heart to others, allow others to get close to me, allowing them to learn from me, and me, them.  It’s crazy how fast my thinking, my perspective changes.  Growth is a wonderful thing but it can also be a mighty scary thing.

Clinging to the “known” is safest for me, I think for many of us.    Keeping my hands open to new things coming my way instead of holding on with a death grip to that which is familiar.   If I never open my heart and mind to change then what would I ‘become’?  Nothing more than I am at this very minute!    Putting on my big girl panties, peeling the layers off the mind set, expectations of perfectionism, I realize I am my own worst enemy.    I am limiting myself, my chances of happiness, of success by keeping my mind closed to that which is known and comfortable.  I am deflating the opportunity to expand my horizons, to live better, to have better things in life.  What if… dare I say it, what if I COULD in fact have the things that I tell myself I don’t want or need.  It’s all “luxury”.   Hmmm, what if?  What if?  Holy crap… WHAT IF?

I’m reaching out my arms to newfound hope.  I’m am embracing dreams of past and daring to dream of present.   I am the only one that can change my life, my circumstances, if I am not willing to try, to give it my all and let go of trying to control the outcome, what will I be?  The very same person that I am today.   Not that I am a bad person, quite the contrary, but allowing myself to do, to be all that I know I can be… I ask you, is there any greater a gift we can give ourselves?  That I can gift myself with?

So many times I’ve heard “One door closes, another one opens”.    I am learning that if I will only go with the flow, allow the natural order of change to take me on my next adventure, what will I be?  Who will I be?   I am and always will be an artist.   I love this part of me.  I accept that I’m out in left field when most are in right.  I love that I see things differently than many.   I love that colors, textures exhilarate me.  I love that I am able to make something out of nothing, and bring the things I “see” to fruition, reality.   I love that I have so many different avenues in which to express my artistic self.     I love that I am once again open to learn, to grown.  That I’ve learned that perhaps I was in fact, trying TOO hard thus overlooking the obvious? the given? anew?

I know not how long I shall rise to another day.  I know not what is in store for me.  But one thing I surely know, if I’m not willing to open up my hands, open up my heart, to allow myself to be vulnerable to pain, I have in fact imprisoned myself in darkness.  I deserve better!

I’m off to seek out my own truth today.  I’m off to smell the fresh air of the open window I’ve been avoiding, or distracting myself from accepting.  Isn’t it funny how in our quest to “NOT” be something, someone, we become a clone of it?

Go seek out your truth today.  Go check the scenery out to the window that you, too, may have been ignoring.   Let’s open up our hands, our hearts to a better life…

 

Today, just for today, I am going to get out of my own way!!!!!!!!!!

Spring… I’m jumping on springs!

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It has been a very busy week for me, but a good week.   I have been “good tired” from all.  It’s a wonderful tired, unlike that of depression, pain.    I have been feeling so well I don’t want to change anything, or “rock the boat”.   Now past the fear of “losing it”, I am very much enjoying it.  It seems like a lifetime since I have felt this good.

A conglomeration of a perfected drug regime, two years of therapy, twice, sometimes 3 times a week, monthly appointments with my psychiatrist, what seemed to be a pouring of pain from my soul was and is met with compassion, suggestions, coping skills.   I am humbled, I am grateful for both my therapist and psychiatrist.  I am grateful for my desire and commitment to taking care of myself and learning, at the age of 52, how to love myself.    I’m not fooling myself into thinking this is “happily ever after”… I know better.  There will be times ahead where I will need to delve deep into all that I have and am learning, but today, right now, my life is exempt from further loss, pain of such, or depression.  Hallelujah!

I participated in a festival of arts in Massachusetts this past weekend.  It was the first time in years that I set up a booth with my artwork.   Having passed the torch and props to neighbors and friends who have started a new business, and who were so generously willing to lend me some of their antiques and displays to have the booth, I went well prepared.   At first I was a bit nervous, as I unpacked my wares, but in no time I got into it and enjoyed the process.  Every travel teaching gig, every show, no matter how well organized and prepared I am, I inevitably forget something.  This trip?  I forgot what I selling!  My packets!    It worked out fine.  I did not dwell, in fact, was able to laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

I spent a day and two nights with my girlfriend from Newfoundland, Canada whose normally 9 hour ferry trip turned into 3 days and 3 nights, they were “stuck on ice”.   As she was sharing the story I just kept shaking my head and laughing… only Anna Marie…only Anna Marie would experience something like this!  Well, that and the 799 other passengers whose plans were largely squelched in ice.

It was so nice to connect with others again.   Heck it was nice to SEE others again.  What seemed to be a very long endless winter, thus isolation from even neighbors, shelter from the storms, has ended.   Hope, new birth, warm temperatures and sunshine have returned.   It was evident on the faces of all who attended.   Winter’s in New England are not easy, and we survived another!   It was enjoyable sharing about art, life with friends and students of past, and some, the future.   It was also wonderful to hear compliments on my artwork, and feeling sincere concern from many who inquired as to how I was feeling, understanding the depth of darkness I have crawled out of.   It was nice seeing sincere happiness from others that I am doing so well.    Grateful…I am grateful. 

With my house once again turned upside down with what remains of my booth, I am sitting, looking at it with admiration.  I did it!   I did it!  I really did it!

As the train is passing by, only resting from whistling once every 6 seconds, I am very much aware of my surroundings, I am very much aware of how fortunate I am to have woken up this morning, to a new day…granted another day.

My psychiatrist told me that I get into trouble because I stop doing what I need to do to stay well.  Not intentional, not even consciously.   I have been vigilant of late in continuing and committing to doing things to help myself.  Grateful…I am grateful.

Grateful…I am grateful.

 

 

To thine own self, be true

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The warm temps and sunshine have melted much of the snow away.  There are now large patches of ground, dead grass, exposed.   I was so excited to walk on this.  Apparently the animals also were excited as Lilly Wonka rolled down the hill on her back not once, but twice.  The proof of her extravagance are the twigs and leaves that remain nestled in her furry curls.   She’s a goofball and doesn’t care.   Oh how nice it is to see evidence that Spring is coming, signs popping up here and there.  There is a large squirrel resting on my butternut tree.  He’s mighty chunky and happy to feel the sun, too.

I just looked over my shoulder at my painting area which I abandoned about three weeks ago.   I have been working on winter scenes, obviously inspired by my surroundings.  Well, it reached a point where I couldn’t even face the canvas!   Even a blank white canvas was discouraging to look at.   I focused, instead, on another medium, still exercising my love for color, texture, and the ability to make something out of nothing.   Ah yes, creating…

Today I want to talk about being true to myself.    I feel like I am being true to myself when I write, design (jewelry, needlecraft) and of course, paint.   I am being true to being right brain dominant.   For years I pushed that aside out of need, carrying a full time job with which I had to put all creativity aside to perform the tasks I was hired to do.   I never did find balance there, being an all or nothing thinker.

I am true to myself when I am taking care of myself.   This is an area that needs attention.   I am taking care of myself when twice a week I attend therapy, when I keep appointments with my health care providers.  I am being true to myself when I say “no” to others.  I am being true to myself when I set boundaries with others.   I am being true to myself when I am being honest with myself, first, then others.   These are all areas in which I have improved tremendously.

I am being true to myself by staying single instead of “settling”.       

I am being true to myself when I help another, am kind to another, practice random acts of kindness.  I am being true to myself when I give of myself, my time to others. 

We all have areas in which we could improve upon, hone.  I think I’m fairly adept at what these areas for me are.    I think the largest area right now is taking care of my body, this precious vessel I was given at birth.    When I had lost a significant amount of weight a couple years ago it was because I wanted to know what it feels like, before I die, to have balance in all areas;  Mental, physical and spiritual.  I have been thinking about this quite frequently lately.   I remember as I was going through my days, free of sugar, addiction, I was astounded as to how much time I had spent thinking about my imperfect self, my imperfect body.   “Am I the fattest in the room?  What do I want to eat today?  And a barrage of other negative connotations that distracted me from other areas of my life, happy, peaceful, serene thinking, and indeed loving and taking care of myself.

I am being true to myself when I admire nature.  The squirrels, chipmunks, watching out for fox, deer, coy dogs.  When I observe how beautiful my surroundings are, in any and all seasons.  When I study the branches on a tree, pull over from driving and take pictures of scenes that inspire me to paint, to create.     When my eyes follow a hawk, any bird, smile when I see them lifted by a thermal.  They just got a free ride, baby!   When I am walking through the woods, admiring the view, aware of my footing, exercising both myself and my dogs.   When I do not allow approval from others to rein.   Basically I am being true to myself when I participate in things that I love to do, within reason.  Is this behavior, this decision stepping me towards peace? harmony? serenity with myself?  

I am being true to myself (bet you are sick of those six words by now 😉 ) When I love myself and others without judgment.  When I “accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.  -The Serenity Prayer

As I set out on this day of errands, appointments, taking care of responsibilities I am going to, today, find the positive in all things, stay calm in the face of conflict and participate in things that I perhaps do not want to, or like to, but are good for me, are in the direction of where I want to go.   A drive by to Dunkin Donuts, phone calls to creditors, making doctors appointments with my ophthalmologist, my oncologist, my dentist, doing housework for the sole reason of how good I feel when my house is clean, organized, inserting pride in my stride.  When I sit down at my painting table and reacquaint myself with my brushes, free of self criticism or critiquing.  Just let the brush flow in the direction it is meant to.

You see, my fingers may be hitting the keyboard to write this blog, my hands may grip the paintbrushes and my eyes visualizing in what direction, what method they should go…but I believe this is a channeling from another.  I don’t know how to explain it.    Most times when I return to and read a blog I’ve written I think to myself…Where did that come from?  I wrote that?   Feelings, thoughts similar to those when I have reached my destination after driving there and not knowing how the hell I got there?  You have experienced this too.  It’s sort of scary and sort of cool, right?

I am always guided.  Sometimes I defy it, and typically that ends disastrously.  I am always given what I need.   I just need to show up, and be true to myself, no matter how it feels.   The old adage “No pain, no gain” rings true.  Taking care of myself, being true to myself isn’t always a walk through a park, nor a constant tunnel of darkness.  It is being brave enough, having courage enough to show up and walk the walk.

Off to put on my hiking boots…..!

Accept tents …… where does my peace reside?

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What constitutes friendship?  How do you define and filter people in your life?   Close friends, good friends, friends, acquaintance, pain in the ass but with a good heart?   Who are the people in your life who inspire you, or are aspiring to you?   Longevity wise, how far back does your oldest friend go?  

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship the past few days.   I’ve been thinking about how I haven’t felt “loved” as much as I used to, so I started to examine my friendships, what has changed?   Some are just enmeshed in their own lives, location can also be a factor, you just can’t pick up the phone and say “Hey, frozen custard?”   Or show up, unshowered, in your crap clothes wanting to connect with someone.   Life can be insanely busy.    I remember Jim’s Nana saying something one day, probably 15 years ago now, that “You young people don’t ever sit, you are always on the go, far too busy to just sit in quiet and enjoy your surroundings”.   Or something close to that.   

Age, maturity has taught me the difference between consciously sitting by oneself, quiet, taking in all that surrounds me, and laying on the couch, one sock on, one sock off, hair up in a ponytail affixed to the couch like a cushion.  I call the first “participating, being conscious”, I call the second relaxation, but as with anything, the pendulum swings both ways, the flip side of that becomes laziness, self loathing.

Have you ever thought about something you really like about a person?  Perhaps that they are fun, carefree, enjoyable to be with because of this?    I’d much prefer to hang with people like this than a human jack-in-the-box waiting to spring out of its skin.    Okay, let’s look at the black or white, the left or right of the pendulum….   Fun, carefree…. the extreme becomes irresponsibility, non committal.     We know that the art of life is to find balance.  Balance with our characteristics, our behavior, our relationships, our time….and so much more.   I have very good balance with some things in my life, and are severely off balance in others.  Add to that, sometimes what I am severely off balance in today was balanced for years, decades.  Ying, Yang. 

As a child, discipline teaches us right from wrong, acceptable and unacceptable.   The temper tantrums that I see children having in stores today, the parents who are “bargaining” with them to behave always amaze me.  There is NO WAY I would have acted that way in a store, not without consequences.   This is not to imply I think the earlier are poor parents.  I have never had children, I only married them, so who am I to say what is right or wrong, but I can surely appreciate the difference.

Acceptance, for me, is the key to serenity, to happiness, to peace.   If I am not peaceful, frolicking around in dissention, depression, sadness, then something in my life is out of balance.  This almost always proves, for me, to be something in my life that I have yet to accept.   As stated earlier, these can change, without our knowledge, unconscious things that have triggered something, something that instills negative.    Some things I have accepted years ago comes back around to chew a hole, deflate my peace.    Does this mean I really never accepted it in the first place?  Who knows, I don’t think so, and most importantly who cares?   I have spent so much time reverting to my past.   I believe that history repeats itself if you don’t recognize it.  I also know that I have lost valuable precious time living in the past.

Grief, grief sucks.   We are told that “time heals all wounds”.    I don’t really believe that.  I believe that time teaches us how to coexist with our wounds, our losses, but it doesn’t heal.    If healing is true with others, I think that is awesome, tell me how you accomplished this?  Tell me how much time it took to heal your broken heart?  Clearly my acceptance, my reaction to the loss of my kid sister is much more balanced now, years later, than when it first happened.    I share a lot about loss, because that is a weight I carry daily.   I have had a lot of loss.   I am trying to lighten the load, to cast the weights into the lagoon of the past and fly over the hills and trees of this difficult place, this vortex, and get beyond, to new, to acceptance.

I want to go back to my not feeling “loved” as much as I used to.   Ironically, after much deliberation, I realize, it has nothing to do with my family, friends (close, good, friends, et all) but how I feel about myself.   I am not happy with myself.   What is it I am not happy with?   Well, there is a list, not a very long list, but a list of things that I am upset with myself about, one or two which actually promote self loathing.  This can throw a wet blanket over my self worth, self esteem, self confidence.    I can pick up any self help book, I can go to therapy, but unless I am doing the work, it’s lost time.  Perhaps pieces of what I am learning today will help me a year or two down the road, but if I am not doing the work, if I am not consciously trying to correct, to find balance to whatever it is in my life that is causing me imbalance then I will never experience long term self worth, love, peace.

I tend to be a black or white thinker, to my detriment.   If I owe a bill that I cannot pay, I don’t pay it unless I have it all.   Um, this doesn’t work!   Or, unless I can achieve and correct whatever it is bothering me, quickly, then, I accept and roll in crap, a couple times, to reassure myself that this part of my life sucks and will always suck.  But that is an example of my thinking, my thinking that I am trying very hard to change.  As stated above, if there is something in my life that I having accepted, there will be no peace.

Throughout my life I tried to find happiness in many places.   Laughing as I think about Garth Brooks “I have friends in low places” even though that isn’t what I am referring to.   If I was feeling low, not liking myself, the attention of the opposite sex could and would make me feel better.  I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about approval, kudos from others.    This escalating when I was in a marriage with an emotionally unavailable husband…shopping, spending…  then this stopped working.    Thankfully as we age we mature, we learn and have learned, we have the knowledge to make better decisions, make better choices for ourselves.  Unfortunately this also comes with loss of bladder control, ability to read a newspaper unless you have on 2.75 readers, and a memory that resides in a colander! 

Bottom line, through all of this.   I have to be happy with myself.  If I am looking to others for approval, if I am looking outside of myself for the answer, for acceptance, for happiness, it will only be a temporary fix.   The only way to happiness is to choose it. 

I am grateful that this evening I am feeling much better about myself than I was this morning.  I gifted myself with a visit to a friend who has inspired me, encouraged me.  Someone I consider to be a good friend.

I feel like this blog has been all over the place, with little correlation or flow, though I hope not.   Remembering the words of my father the second time I went in-patient for depression.   “You just have to pull yourself up by your boot straps”.   I cried, and cried.  Why didn’t he understand that I was doing my best?   Did he think I haven’t tried?      Today I think about the extreme, the black of the white, the right or left of the pendulum   “I care, I don’t know how to help you, I can’t do this for you, I’m frustrated, please get better, I love you!”

We are designed to be perfectly imperfect.   My parents generation you didn’t “air your dirty laundry in public”, you just “keep going”.  The extreme of this is self preservation, perseverance.     

Is there someone you are reacting negatively to what they are saying?  Is it possible to look at the extreme, to see if there is perhaps a message there that the person is not able to convey via words?    And not to leave this for last purposely, because it exists in my every day life, breathing, exhaling, movement, thoughts…. my spirituality.   I just cannot live a full life or happy existence without God leading my way.   I cannot live a full life or happy existence if I am not accepting myself as I am today.   I don’t have to “like” something to accept it. 

Acceptance, for me, is the key to serenity, to happiness, to peace.   If I am not peaceful, frolicking around in dissention, depression, sadness, then something in my life is out of balance. 

The past few days as I rolled around in my crap, I was shown what it was I need to change about myself.  It will not be done overnight, it will be achieved by stepping in that direction, the direction in which happiness lies for me, a little amount, a bit everyday.  Some days will be sprints forward, others a step or two backwards, but I don’t have to look at it as negative, I can look at it that it is just giving me a running start… 

 

In love with a binge drinker

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14 years earlier

I strolled into work this day like usual.  Another day, another dollar… but something was different, I could feel it.   As I was making a floral arrangement I looked up to see someone looking at me.  Immediately my eyes focused on this man.  Beautiful red hair, blue eyes, tye dye socks, sneakers, and a string of hemp around his neck that held a green healing stone along with several other colorful beads.  .   He had the most welcoming, beautiful smile I had ever seen.  He exuded so much joy, sunshine, and happiness.  Where did this man come from?   Unbeknownst to me my employer had hired temps for the fall foliage season  Was it really that sunny of a day, or was he the sunshine?  His smile, his presence brightened any room he walked into.

The first day he kinda smiled and just observed the lay of the land, so to speak.  The next day he walked over to the floral counter where I worked.  He shared that he was going thru a difficult transition (divorce).  He was starting over here as a transient from Lake George.  Looking for gainful employment.  Was in AA and had so much gratitude for this one day.  I listened, offered some sharing of my own, and we instantly became friends.  I too was in a 12 step program, AlAnon.  I too was going through divorce, a difficult transition.   I was 33, he was 31.

A few weeks later, after weeks of flirting with each other, he came over to me, smiled and said “when are you going to have me down for dinner?”  I quickly replied “I don’t cook but I have several kinds of cereal!”…. he responded with a wonderful grin on his face “I’ll bring the milk!”     October 8th was our first “date”.  We sat on my couch and shared about our lives.  He held my hand, as we shared with each other about our lives.  He shared that he had been in trouble with the law due to drinking.   He touched my face with the back of his hand, and then cupped my cheek into his hand.  Both of us felt like we had known each other forever.  We had much in common.   Six or seven hours later, when we realized how late it was, or early (lol) he left to go catch a few hours sleep before meeting with his lawyer in NY.  After he left I laid in my bed reliving every sentence spoken.   Something huge had happened that night.  Out of the blue it came.  For the very first time in my life I realized why everything happened the way it did in my life.  Everything aligned, painful things that I had experienced fell into a groove of acceptance, uncertainties were resolved.  It was the most incredible powerful night of my life.   If I never saw him again, that wouldn’t have changed.  Still wouldn’t today.

When I looked into those beautiful blue eyes I knew this man was going to be significant in my life.  The anticipation of being with each other at night was unlike anything I had ever experienced.    He felt the same.   Kismet, love, lust… this was a powerful combination.  A few weeks later his address changed to mine.   I wasn’t yet divorced, though I had been separated for 2 years from my exhusband and I had asked for a divorce a few months earlier.     My hand fit perfectly into his, my shoulders into his.  As he shared of his past problems with alcohol I  wasn’t afraid.  For me, it was a miracle to both of us that we had found each other, life was good, we were going to be okay.  Together we could conquer the world!  Our relationship grew, everyday got better and better.   Not only did we “fit” physically but spiritually we were aligned, and emotionally we connected on a level I had never experienced before in my life, and doubt I ever will again.  Our goals, morals, standards, dreams were one in the same.   We adopted a dog from the humane society, he named her “miss molly”… an instant family in a small house in a very small community.  He started a new job (a place where I had worked for several years before), and encouraged me to teach painting at the local school after a call from local schoolboard member.  We planted gardens in our yard, we camped and canoed at his family’s camp in NH, we went on long rides and he showed me places I had never seen as I did him.  One day we decided to go for a long drive and find a place to camp overnight.  It was so cold, I believe it was early December, we laid in separate sleeping bags, cuddling, and he showed me how eskimos kiss by rubbing his nose over mine.  Smiles.

I met his parents at Christmas time.  They came to the house, did not stay long, but they gifted me with this huge beautiful plant.  Before they arrived he had picked out a painting I did that he thought his mother would like, it was a country scene on an old barrel stave that he had sanded up for me.  Our christmas tree was beautiful.  It was decorated with popcorn and cranberries strung together, and we made decorations ourselves.  As if to shut off our pasts, we wanted to start anew with each other.  Another commonality was we didn’t have a lot of money, but it didn’t matter.  We defined wealth and richness in our love for each other, in our home, in our furry animals, family and many friends.  One of our favorite things to do on the weekend was to take the jeep into the woods, pack a lunch and just drive.  We went through streams, swamps, rocks, dug up some wild violets and fiddleheads and transplanted them back in our yard.  Sometimes we would bring back a rock to commemorate the day.  We frequented the movies weekly.  Friday nights were movie night.    He loved to pick out movies like “Alien Resurrection,The Cell” because he said “you sit really close to me and bury your head in my chest!”.  We loved going to the movies.   And he was right, I was afraid and freaked out at some of the movies, so I DID in fact bury my head in his chest. 

As with any new relationship, or when you begin living with someone you learn things about them, and you learn your differences.  One day we went to the local video store to return a video that he had forgotten to grab that morning to drop in the box.  There was another day charge on my account.  I was digging for the money when he said “We’ll just pay the late free when we rent another movie’.  I remember saying to him “I don’t work that way… I pay for things as they come up”.    Looking back on it years later I realized this was one of the first changes I made without much thought.  The changes were so small and gradual that I either wasn’t cognitive of them happening or I had abandoned my beliefs and ways because it was easier(?). 

Many months later I went away for the weekend to spend time with my two sisters in Wolfeboro, NH.  He was encouraging me to go, told me to just go and have fun.  I ended up having one of the best weekends of my life….Mt. Washington, shopping in North Conway, eating meals and reminiscing with my sisters… life was good.  I decided to come home a day early to surprise him.  I couldn’t wait to see him, to see Miss Molly and my boys (Sam & Pickles). My cats absolutely loved him.  Sam was a cat that only liked 2 people in the world-me and my sister Darlene.  But he quickly became Jim’s cat.  His coloring matched Jim’s, the reds/oranges.  Smiles.  Sam would actually lay on his chest and rub his head on Jim’s beard.  He had never reacted like this to anyone, and he was almost 10 years old.  I drove in the yard and he and Molly weren’t home.  Within a few minutes I heard the jeep bombing down the road and into the driveway they pull.  His face was beat red, but this wasn’t unusual for a red head when exposed to the sun.  He was surprised but happy to see me.  I thought I saw a flash of fear in his eyes, and I couldn’t quite figure out why until we got close to each other.  He was drunk.  Everything came crashing down on me.  The bubble had burst. 

That night I slept in the spare room, he slept in our bedroom.  In the middle of the night he came into the room where I was, sat down on the bed, rubbed my back and started to cry.  I cried too.  I told him I had lived with active alcoholism before, I didn’t want to again.  And very innocently and naively and in hindsight I will include ignorantly I said “I thought you were happy”.   “I am, I am happier than I have ever been Donna, this has nothing to do with you or us.  I can’t help myself, I just can’t.”  Never once did he say he would quit, or promise to quit.  He didn’t say he had a desire to quit.  The next day I met one of my dearest friends in the local park.  I was crying, as I told  her what was happening, that the man I had fallen in love with had fallen off the wagon.  My all or nothing thinking told me I had to end the relationship, yet how could I say goodbye to this man?  He had some quirks, he was absent minded, he was irresponsible in ways, but he was the kindest, sweetest, most loving and supportive person I had ever met.  We nurtured each other, we loved each other.  It was that day, talking to Janice that she said to me “Why Donna does it have to end?   When was the last time you went to AlAnon?” It was that day that I realized, oh my god, I had forgotten all about program, and so had he.  We thought that together we were bigger than that, that it wasn’t necessary… NEVER had we been so wrong in our lives  We started going back to meetings infrequently.  Hours, days, weeks of conversations, discussions, happiness again…  We somehow grew closer from this.  A couple months later he sold his jeep, paid the landlord 5 months worth of rent, and surprised me with my first studio.  A few months later when he went away to CT for training it happened again.  “I’ll call you when I get there, I love you”…. And when he called his voice had that added element of excitement in it.  Later when he called I could hear the slurring in his words…   Reality has a way of slapping you in the face when you realize you are in love with a binge drinker. 

I had been involved with AlAnon on and off because of involvement with alcoholics in my life.  I was familiar with daily drinking, but I had never quite seen nor did I have experience with binge drinking.   I was, however, a recovering bulimic, I tried to relate to the build up that I felt when I would binge.  

We continued to enjoy each other, our life was pretty good with the exception of his biannual binges. I knew when they would be coming as his whole body language changed.   He would get this firey look in his eyes just before he would binge.   I don’t know how to explain it, but it truly was present.   Inside of this man was a craving, a need he could not control for longer than 4-5 months.  When I felt a binge coming on for him, which over the years progressed from biannually to quarterly, I would try to control the situation by talking to him in advance about it.   I had read about the dangers of binge drinking, the damage it does to your liver, to your body.  I would share this information with him.  This effort proved futile, though he would listen to me.    “I know Donna, I know”.  When he returned home from training and drinking, I would be angry with him, and hurt.  Again and ignorantly I would say things like “if you loved me, you would stop drinking”.  It would take us a few days to get back to where we were before the binge, but we always managed to do so.  Over a period of this happening I started to feel resentful.  During one of his away trips / binges my cat Sam became very ill, and I had to make a choice whether to put him down or not.  Jim was unavailable to me, not only was he away, but he was in his own little world unreachable by phone.    When he arrived home, I had put Sam down, and was extremely angry and hurt with him.    Somethings you can forgive but they stick to your insides like flesh to the bone.   I would express my concerns, and worked hard on his guilt.  (Later I learned how this behavior only contributed to his drinking).  He listened, he offered no excuses, nor promises.    He said to me “Booze is my best friend, Donna.  I can’t live without it”.   In hindsight, he never spoke truer words to me than those.

Changes within me

Standard

Thurs, March 25th 6:30am

I’m usually up at this time long enough to let the dog out, take my morning meds, feed the cats, let the dog in, and then back in bed for a few more hours….  One of the important (to me) perks of self employment.  This morning, however, I am heading to Boston to meet with my plastic surgeon, preop appointment, and some tests.

I am changing.  There are obvious changes in my body, but more important, inside, at my core.  The calmness and clarity that settled in me is comforting.   I still catch myself obsessing some about stupid shit, but in general, the diagnosis of cancer and the journey through it have brought about many positive things/changes.  For one, self worth.  I have never been the one to take care of myself.  I say I did, I believed I did, but now I know, it was superficial.  Somehow being diagnosed with a potentially fatal and quite chronic disease can bring you to a point of growth in about 10 seconds or less!  These are gifts.  Today I am eating right, I am exercising, I am active, I am resting when I’m tired, I am mindful of my time, my days, my life, and making much kinder and softer decisions for myself.  Those who love me are on the side lines rooting me on.  At this point (but it can change tomorrow), it isn’t about fighting the cancer, I have done that, it is about living my life to the fullest, growing, and actually doing the things in my life that I have said for years, I wanted to, or who I wanted to be.  I am becoming.  I am.  I am alive, today I am well, and excited as hell to have a second chance.

This morning I will see the sunrise, I will drive to Boston and meet with my plastic surgeon to discuss my exchange surgery scheduled for 2 weeks from tomorrow.  “Exchange” meaning, they will take out this iron turtle expanders that have been in now since July… the very expanders that every week I would go down and get an injection in the port that is inside of these suckers, of saline… to stretch the skin, tissue and muscle…. a grueling lengthy process… and they will be replaced with soft silicone implants.  Deep sighs.  This is exciting.  A new chapter in this journey, and one that will allow me to sleep on my side and belly again!

view from my oncologists office....

You know, there was one thing that stood out for me about myself after my mastectomy(ies).  I had just had my breasts removed, but after the healing from the surgery, I had never felt more whole in my life.  Interesting, huh?

I’m also scheduled for a bone density and I believe one other thing…. Lord only knows.  ?? ?

Please come to Boston for the springtime… I’m staying here with some friends, and they’ve got lots of room….. you can sell your paintings on the sidewalk.  Buy a cafe where I hope to be working soon… Please come to Boston, she said No, but you come home to me!”  Boston is not my home, but it is and has been an important “port of call” in my life.

Onward, upward, to a new day….