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.

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.

 

Barely Discernable

2015 was a blur– kind of a going-through-the-motions sort of year, and to be honest, I really don’t remember much. I acknowledged all the appropriate anniversaries and grieved unapologetically. But 2016 had promise and I was able to start seeing light again… until….

Mid-June I lost my taste and my smell, and eventually a whole host of other things that after two MRIs, a spinal tap, and a whole lot of blood work led to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. A disease in which there is no family history, no obvious reason that made me a candidate for the disease, but nonetheless, I was given the diagnosis.

I found an MS website that indicated that nutrition played a key factor in keeping the symptoms at bay. I started meeting with a nutritionist that I knew from Arizona.  We began by taking out things that are known to cause inflammation in my body. Gradually I reduced from my daily diet things like saturated fat, processed foods, sugar, and dairy.  The goal was to create an environment that would allow my body to heal and recover. I never denied having the disease, but I wanted to do everything I could to be proactive for my own future.

I also started “speaking life” (for lack of a better way to say it) to myself. Each morning I would state the things I was thankful for and I would remind myself of who I am in Christ. I started meeting with a friend through work who teaches balance to aging seniors. Twice a month she would come to my office and we would work on strengthening my balance — little things like shifting my weight to eventually being able to stand on one foot for 10 seconds, then 15 seconds, 30 seconds, then a minute+.

I also faithfully scheduled and kept my monthly massage appointments (I know… so tough!) And I started to really embrace what my pastor’s wife always says, “No thank you is a complete sentence.” I had to take care of me and I couldn’t feel badly about withdrawing from obligations, and not committing to everything that came across my desk.

The end of August, I had my three-month follow up with my neurologist. He wanted me to start taking maintenance drugs. He was not a fan of me following a holistic approach and in no uncertain terms told me that my markers were such that I was going to have another episode from which I would not fully come back from and that each episode would get progressively worse. That I would eventually end up with limited mobility and have a degenerative brain disease such as Alzheimer’s.  I told him that I was not denying that I had the disease but I asked to hold off until December — that if in three months, the then 6-month MRI showed active or additional lesions that I would revisit the drug recommendation. He said, that sounded reasonable and I carried on with my plan of guided self-care.

Fast forward to mid-December, now six months after the initial symptoms. I get both a brain and c-spine MRI and go for some additional blood work. I was no sooner out of the MRI appointment when I get a call from the neurologist’s office letting me know that they had the results and asking to see me the next day. Of course, it’s rarely good news when they call you that quickly and amongst all the emotions, all I could say to myself was “but I feel better.”  I arrived at the office a bundle of nerves. Dr. E asked me if I had seen my report. I said I had not and he gave me a thumbs up and said, “it’s good news.” As he read the report to me, phrases like “improved white matter disease, no new lesions, and my favorite ‘the area of abnormal signal and contract enhancement (etc…yada yada yada) has shown marked improvement, barely discernible at this time'” flooded my heart and I couldn’t help but ask if I could hug him.

So, now two weeks later, I’m set to enter another new year. One that yet again is completely different than anything I’ve experienced before. I’m keeping on with my plan of self-care and nutrition and while the lesions may be barely discernible, that will not be the case with my joy. Bring it on 2017 – your girl is ready for you!

What’s in a name?

Twenty seven months ago I found myself in a much different place…a place I never expected to be. They say time heals all wounds… and in the midst of it all,  I would not have believed that but now, two years later, it’s much easier to accept.

I struggled with continuing my story on top of my  previous blog . It just didn’t “feel” right…and so rather than try to force the matter, I realized it was time to start a fresh blog–one in which I could  share the triumphs and trials of a life that is continuing to (re)build, a life I refused to give up on, a life that is now imperfectly, perfectly mine.

So what is in a name?  Why did I name the blog “behind the glass”? Well, during all the craziness, I found an unexpected ally. A friend that never hesitated to remind me that I was worth it… that yes, time does make a difference, and that yes, while it was OK to feel sorry for myself, it wasn’t the place to live. C shared one of her favorite sayings and its stuck with me since the day she said it.“When you find yourself being treated cheaply it was because YOU put yourself on the sale rack. It was time to get behind the glass where the expensive items are kept.” 

So I say to all of you out there in blog land that have gone through or are going through the crap that is unfaithfulness, divorce, and the loss of a life and lifestyle that you once knew… it’s time to get yourself behind that glass. YOU are worth so much more than you might think.  Just like C believed it enough for me until I could see it myself, I will believe it enough for you until you can see it for yourself.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep on keeping on…it’s not been easy, but it has been easier. I’m not starting over, I’m just starting again.