We Need to Talk

One thing I love about where I live is the amount of opportunities I have to enjoy community events on topics that I both know little about and find interesting or that I know lots about and already love.

Last night, our local Friends of the Library hosted Celeste Headlee who spoke about communication and her book “We Need to Talk.” One of the points she referenced was a study that reported that there is less than half-a-second between the time a speaker finishes a sentence and the listener responds.  She shared that we tune into a conversation for about ten seconds, immediately formulate a response, and then wait for the other person to stop so that we can start.

She shared a study that reported that since the year 2000 there has been a decline in empathy among young people and while there was no definitive reason as to why (yet), she offered her opinion that technology, specifically smart phone technology, could be the driving force.  That it was much easier to send a quick text than to make a call, that feelings are conveyed not with words but with emojis.

When I was going through “The Craziness“, a night did not pass that a friend wasn’t calling to check on me, there was not a day that my family didn’t hear the same story over and over, and there was not a time that I could not pour my emotions into a keyboard and find a kindred spirit in blogland.

I believe in times of crisis, we generally do a good job of communicating with each other. We see this over and over with natural disasters and sadly, unnatural ones. We are a tribe, we are a hive, we are unified, we synchronize, we move as one — it truly is when one hurts we all hurt. Brené Brown shares that vulnerability can transform and move us towards great things and that the most vulnerable in a crisis situation is not necessarily the weakest one.  It is the person who risks their own life to rescue those in danger, the one who speaks up when they see wrong, or the one takes a moment to call and verbally convey the words “I care.”  It is those that choose to dare greatly knowing they are most at risk for loss.

Personally, I don’t want to wait for a crisis to wake up and look out from behind selfies and passive aggressive 40-character tweets to see that people are not the titles they carry at work, the labels that they wear, or the roles they have been assigned. They are the people behind that job title, the person behind that responsibility, the individual just wanting to be heard.

We do need to talk. And it might be, as Celeste shared, we need to talk about why we’re not talking. Or it might be that we just need to talk because it’s time for our inner voice to see the light of day again.  I am not a job title, or a label, or a role, I am just someone that wants not only to be heard but I dare greatly in putting myself out there hoping that someone listens.

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A Choice to Be…

I recently shared with my therapist that I wished I had a photo of myself from my first session with her so that I could compare it with myself now. I know that I did not get here overnight and I certainly didn’t get here without a lot of help and support. I also don’t want to sell myself short… I’ve worked hard, really hard.  I spent many a night pouring out my soul in blog posts. My mind alone raced more than a marathon runner.

I still have bad days. Sometimes, really bad days – days where I still feel an incredible emptiness inside. There are still sleepless nights and sometimes nightmares. At my last acupuncture appointment I said, “I’m really having a hard time right now, and I’m counting on you and everyone else to keep me together.” I’m not quite sure what I wanted him to do, but I relished in the fact that I could say out loud that I needed help; something that for so many years I held in confidence due to pride.   You should know that both my acupuncturist and my massage therapist play jedi-mind tricks –they seem to know where and when I’m hurting, both physically and emotionally, and it always makes me laugh when they ask a question that I’m sure they already know the answer to.

After my most recent post people asked questions about what I had done or was doing. So much of it now is a part of who I am that it’s hard for me to remember all the subtle changes over time. Hence me wishing that I had that picture of the first day “on the couch.”  After some searching I was able to find a photo of myself from August 2014. It was a staff photo, so it was one in which I made a conscience effort to do my makeup, hair, and wardrobe. And on my birthday, I had snapped a selfie of myself – August 2017.  I was able to place them side by side and see just how much had changed in three years.

Putting the weight-loss aside, there is something different about my eyes, my skin-tone, my smile. In the former, I looked sickly and pale and if anyone cared to look in my eyes, they would have seen right to my soul.  And when I looked at my birthday picture… of me… on my 47th (!)  birthday, there is light in my eyes and color in my cheeks, and my smile seems brighter.  Yes, bad days still happen, but man, there are so many more good days now.

It was just one simple thing – one choice that started it all. And over time, that one simple thing has changed and evolved. What once started as just remembering to exhale, to not concentrate on replaying the events with M, or trying to define what happened, is now choosing to make sure I have a healthful diet, choosing to be truly thankful and grateful for this life I have been given, and to unashamedly accept a face full of doggy kisses upon demand.

So I guess I would ask those of you that asked me what I am doing…. “what are YOU willing to do for you?”  Just start with one choice– make it real, make it your own.  Sometimes, it’s just enough to get out of bed and call that success. Or it might be remembering that what you eat in secret, you wear in public- so choose to make a better food choice. It might be embracing what my pastor’s wife taught me all those years ago, No Thank You is a complete sentence. It might be capturing that negative thought and choosing to give it to the Lord. And it might be just remembering to take your vitamins.

What do I do?  I work at it and I remember that it didn’t happen overnight.  I make a million little choices each day. I choose to remember what C reminded me, that I am worth it. But on the bigger scale, I choose to still faithfully take my Juice Plus, I choose to speak life to myself each morning, I choose to treat myself kindly with services that help my overall well-being, and I choose to remember that one day I just might wake up with only the things I thanked God for yesterday… and for that reason, I’m always thankful for those in my life that have carried me this far.

What a Difference A(nother) Year Makes

 I realize I could start by apologizing for not writing but who would I be apologizing to? Myself? Maybe? But then I would remind myself that this year has been one of no apologies, and no excuses.

Three years ago, my husband of eleven years was telling me that he had an affair, that he didn’t love me and that he didn’t care to reconcile or even consider our marriage. Two years ago, I was counting every single day -still trying to accept what had happened. One year ago, the stress of all that I had gone through for so long took its toll on me physically and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.   August 1 will come again and like cobwebs, his last words still cling to me. Even though M has been gone for almost 3 years, I still feel tangled in his lies. I make no apologies for feeling this way. I own my own inadequacies, I also embrace them. I have been able to move on and move forward and I have new dates that hold special memories for me now.

Over the past year, I have spent more money than I should admit to on concert tickets. After M left, one of the first things I did was go to see Ed Sheeran in concert. In Atlanta. Alone. And it hasn’t stopped since. Just this past year I’ve seen Matisyahu, The Steel Wheels, The Swinging Medallions, Mercy Me, The Air Force’s Airmen of Note, Apollo’s Fire, The Sensational Sounds of Motown w/ Mr. Motown himself, New Kids on the Block – even got to touch Joey McIntyre (squeal), Paula Abdul, Boys II Men, and before the year is over, I’ll see Crowder, Ed Sheeran, see Jonathon Byrd perform at a local coffee shop  and spend Christmas with the Oak Ridge Boys.

I helped pick our city’s best taco. I rode in an Uber that had eyelashes over its headlights. I took time off to attend our local TEDx talks. I enrolled in a leadership course at work, which opened my eyes to my own failings but also to strengths I didn’t realize I possessed. I took computer design courses and I’m embracing my newly created job position.

I still, unapologetically, get monthly massages, regular pedicures, manicures, acupuncture, and reflexology treatments. I remind my co-workers and anyone else that will listen, that self-care is too often neglected and that we all need to be kinder to ourselves. I, the most unlikely person for this task, led a team of 10 for six weeks on a fitness/wellness challenge where we placed #20 out of over 200 teams. I have maintained my plant-based nutrition program with just a couple of days where I could have made better choices, and did so the next time around. I’ve lost 65 pounds, which means that shopping for clothes has been more fun and I’ve got a closet full of new clothes. I met with the neurologist for my twelve month check-up and his comment to me was “If I didn’t know you had MS, I wouldn’t have any clue now” and he is starting to come around to my desire to manage my symptoms with nutrition and self-care even suggesting I look into the new research involving biotin. I went through my storage unit, yes, “the” storage unit. I opened every box and tossed, donated, sold, and sorted everything left from a life that was no longer. And I survived, much better than I expected I would, and it feels good. I still go to “Mental Yoga” and again, I tell everyone I know that we all need professional help sometimes.

I’ve been “published.” A local art council accepted a poem I had written not long after M had passed, and they hung it on the wall for the public to see –I was raw, and exposed, and liberated all at the same time. I joined a newly formed poetry group and am serving as their inaugural president.  I started taking ballroom dance lessons after telling myself that if I’m going to start dating again, I need to know how to dance like a lady and not be “dropping it like it’s hot” anymore. I’ve got to leave a little something for my future husband to look forward to. Yup, that’s a new one too. I’ve decided that there is still so much more within me, so much more love I can share and I do want to get married again. I’m not going to lie; dating is different than when I was last out there. But I know what I bring to the table, I’m not afraid to be by myself and if a guy can keep up with all that I’ve got going on, I hope he introduces himself.

I’ve also attended too many memorials and funerals and have said goodbye to friends who left this earth way too soon. And I’ve said goodbye to a couple of friendships. Life isn’t fair, period.

But I will rise up each morning because although life isn’t fair, the fight within me is far from gone. I’ve learned that to heal your body, you have to heal your mind, and to heal your mind, you have to heal your spirit, and to heal your spirit, you need Jesus.  Just because M is gone doesn’t mean he’s not “here.” I accept that he will always be a part of my life, even if it’s just a momentary look back every August 1.

And I know without a doubt that one thing is for certain. I now live in the present, embracing life for what it is at this very second, because I want to live as if this isn’t just a moment, but rather a memory.

My M.S. Update

How are you?  You feeling OK?

I answer these two questions constantly. Most often asked by folks I don’t see on a regular basis. And since my job includes a group of 1,400 people, the rotation of folks that I don’t see on a regular basis, is well, regular.

It’s been awhile since I updated on my health.  I still have MS – it doesn’t go away but my symptoms are manageable. I’m still following a primarily plant-based diet and still practice self-care by speaking life to myself each day, and trying to keep my stress level low(er), as well as doing things that allow “me” time, such as massages and manicures.

I think the biggest thing is that I’m super, almost hyper, sensitive to every nuance in my body and how I feel. I swear that during stressful times I can feel each strand of hair on my head move. I try hard to remember that each day is just a day and that a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. A bad food decision doesn’t ruin a day; it’s just a bad decision.  The problem with that last one though is that I’ve given myself a lot of grace…and I mean a LOT of grace. I can’t really explain it except to say that maybe I’ve been so successful that I feel like I can’t fail? And that’s a hard mindset (for me) to overcome. Maybe it’s because for the past few years, people allowed me to live by excuses… if I was angry, I had right to be; if I was sad, I had a right to be; if I was snippy or rude, I had a right to be; if I needed a night of binge eating following by laziness, I had a right to be.

The reality is that it’s a privilege to be surrounded by friends that understand that there will be days that I’m still angry, sad, rude or snippy. But they are excuses, and I don’t have the right to keep using what happened to me to still control me and allow me to get away with the lack of common courtesy. It’s the same with MS. Yea, it sucks to think that I have something that will forever be a part of my life. But Lord, help me to remember that it’s a part of my life – it’s not my life.  It’s forever going to guide me, but I don’t want to give it so much control that it leads me.

So, right now, I’m struggling mentally with accepting the limitations of what I should eat. It’s easy to have and experience success short term, like I did from August to December last year. I have medical evidence that the plan I am following does work for me. But now, I’m feeling the weight of having to do this every day for the rest of my life.  I’m not angry that this is my life. I accept the story that is mine knowing that somewhere, somehow there is a plan and a purpose. This body is just a shell – just a physical manifestation of a life that I believe I will have for eternity. And in the end, no matter the emotional, mental, physical struggle that each day brings me I know one thing to be absolutely true….

I may not have signed up for this life but I’m damn sure going to show up for it.

 

Webster has no words

I hate the thought of labels, but secretly I crave the definition just for some sort of inkling as to who I am now.

Since the word vomit incident, I’ve been back to see my therapist. I shared with her what happened and she said what I already knew – maybe there are still some unresolved items. Maybe she’s right.

Some things in life are easy to define; but consider infidelity, divorce, and then suicide all in a matter of just four months and who knows what to call it other than mind-numbing. This I know… this was the craziness that was my life in 2014.

Since the “craziness that was my life” happened, I’ve struggled what to call it, how to refer to it, how to give it the “respect” it’s due. In fact, I always seem to default to calling it the “Craziness.”  It doesn’t seem to fit any mold, at least none that I know.  I mentioned to my therapist that I think I struggle with defining it because I really don’t want to be tied to whatever label might come with it.

To me legally divorced and emotionally widowed is the only thing that makes sense and yet, that’s not an option when filling out paperwork (since the Craziness every time that question comes up, I leave it blank.)  With my recent determination towards self-care, I affirm each morning that I am a child of God, that I am loved with an everlasting love, that I am clothed with strength and dignity and laugh without fear of the future (Prov 31:25) but there are times that I still can’t seem to figure out who I am and the lyrics to Irene Cara’s song Out Here on My Own play over and over in my mind.

I’m not sure I will ever really know what to call it. And maybe the Craziness will just be what it will always be. And maybe I don’t need a label. Maybe the definition of it will be just a picture of me surviving after such a crazy time that was my life. Maybe…. nope, definitely.

 

Word Vomit, Verbal Diahrea, A Rose

…by any other name, they’re all the same.

Ugh, I was feeling so good about where I was mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. And for the most part, I am in a pretty good place but unfortunately, I got “sick” on a poor unsuspecting soul a couple of weeks ago and it has been on my mind ever since.

It was just any ordinary day at work. I had a meeting with a colleague/friend to go over some prep work for her upcoming lecture. Four months after M took his life, her own husband did the same thing. That sort of story seemed to be the theme for me in 2015. I remember asking God what was I supposed to do with all of “this” and in the span of six months, three other women I knew experienced the loss of a spouse/former spouse through suicide. I knew that at least I would know what to say and could share, even if just a tiny bit, some of the same emotions they were feeling.

Well, fast forward another 18 months. C & I were casually chatting after we finished our business and she shared with me that another woman she met basically blurted out that her husband had died in the same manner and it took my friend C by surprise. I shared with her that it was a story shared all too often once people know that you can “relate.”

I hate the stigma about even saying the word suicide. I read obituaries now (weird, I know) and I can tell when the cause of death is suicide. Sometimes, the person was young, other times older, but there is always a sadness that is different from other obituaries and I know that the loved one writing it is struggling to say what they cannot understand and my heart hurts so deeply for them. 

But back to me and C. Well, next thing I know it’s thirty minutes later and I’ve totally unleashed on her a multitude of things that really didn’t need to be said. I shared stories of mine & M’s relationship and shared a bit about the challenge that was life when he was alive. I shared that I now know and understand why abused women stay and how it ended like it did. It was definitely more than needed to be shared and yet I couldn’t stop myself — so much word vomit! It was the worst case of verbal stomach flu ever.

And when it was over and C had left, I knew it was definitely a lot for someone to have heard for the first time. I have to realize that I’ve had 30 months to live/mourn/recover/remember/mourn/recover/grieve/mourn/recover… but for someone hearing it all for the first time, I cannot imagine how it must have sounded.

There is nothing I can do now except try to face her as if it didn’t happen. Hmmm…I suppose denial isn’t the best thing to do – ha! but I am sorry it happened. I wouldn’t wish the reality of what I went through on anyone, let alone the retelling of it. But I hope that on some level, C can understand the emotions that you think are in order can all of a sudden rise to the top and some poor unsuspecting soul gets more than they bargained.

 

Reservation for Two, Table for One

Since M is no longer a part of my life, I’ve been to movies, concerts, restaurants, and local events by myself. That’s nothing new for me – I was doing all of these before I met M and immediately after the craziness that was my life in 2014, I did things by myself primarily because I needed the escape from my own life.

I still go to movies and concerts and out to dinner and local events but now I prefer to share these moments with others.  Recently, I purchased two tickets to see one of my favorite songwriters, Matisyahu.  I had always purchased multiple tickets and I was always fortunate enough to find someone with the time and money to go – that is until now. For weeks, I asked everyone I knew and the answer was always no thank you, can’t make it, I don’t know that artist, nope.

Now mind you, money is still not the easiest for me to come by, so having $80 wrapped up in a ticket that I was going to have to suck up really hurt.  Just because I was willing to spend $80 on a ticket didn’t mean anyone else was willing to spend $80 on a ticket.  In the end, I called a friend at the last minute and said that either I could go by myself or find someone who enjoys all kinds of music even if they didn’t know this particular artist. And in turn, she drove and paid for dinner so for me that was a win/win.

Yet somehow, this became yet another reminder that at the end of the day, it is just me – a table for one. When I pause and remember to put it all in perspective, I’m realizing I’m in good company since after all…

Just one sun lights the sky.
Just one moon turns the tide.
A man can change the world with just one thought.
One promise made can last forever
Just one rock will bend a river
One God up in heaven is all we’ve got        

yup… sometimes one can be a lot

One Can be Alot – Blackjack Billie