How We Compare Past Pain To Gauge Present Pain But It’s All Relative

My writing feels broken.

Life still moves at the speed of “slow down, WTF!”

That hasn’t kept the words at bay.

My love life has been moving in a positive direction.  It has made change for me and my boys and we’re riding the waves as a family.  For the most part we’re okay but in one very specific way, we’re not.

My firstborn is having a hard time with the changes and not having my home whole has made writing a challenge.  How do I write about doing what feels good, when so much of what I feel is tied into how my son feels and the ways we’re not blending our lives into ways where I can proclaim we’re all doing epic shit.

Friday I drove myself to an ER after pushing through a job interview and saying I had a little indigestion.  The chest pain was bad enough that I was crying.  Not sobbing or asking for attention as much as silent tears and gritting my teeth through the nurse’s questions.  It was bad.  I found my sense of humor.  She was hiding out but given free reign, she’s a bit snarky and had no patience for the whiny bitch next to me.  (If a nurse or doctor is trying to help you after you go see them for help, don’t bother trying to justify kicking them.) I was sent home after being given really good drugs and felt better through the weekend.

Monday morning I called an ambulance after a night of chest pain, vomiting and being unable to sleep.  I know, pretty bone headed of me.  I kept thinking, it hurts, but it’s not as bad as the pulmonary embolisms.  And then it was.  It went from kinda uncomfortable to more painful than full on labor pains pretty quickly too.  I think at some point I may have begged for death while running to the bathroom to vomit and it was only after getting through the night that I called an ambulance and had the paramedic act pretty bored as he realized I wasn’t actually having a heart attack.  They hung out with me and waited for another ambulance to take me to a hospital where I was taken in and tested and poked and prodded and drugged.  The 7 am call included a transfer to my plan hospital and a discharge after 33 hours, with lotsa fun follow up appointments in my near future.  Gallbladders are like lungs.  They’re supposed to function without using pain to grab your attention.  If you feel pain, play it safe and see a doctor.

I kept thinking of my worst possible experiences and I held them up to what I was going through.  I held up the past with the present in a way that let me see that I was not actually dying.  I matched up battle scars to see that I’ve been through bad situations and it doesn’t make the current better or worse.  It reminds me there’s no point in whining about it.  I will get through it.  There are no other options.

That moment helped me find the funny and crack some jokes.  That comparison gave me the clarity to see that I haven’t been able to write, but it’s about me.  It’s not the boyfriend.  It’s not wondering what I can write or if I should. It’s my relationship with my firstborn that makes me feel so shattered that the words stopped.

It’s new territory.  I get to learn and we get to stretch, and in time, this will be one of those battle scars in our relationship I will hold up.  I’ll remember how hurt I am that I have hurt him.  I will remember how torn I feel by the directions my heart is pulling me in.  I’ll remember that in this moment and every moment around it, I’ve been trying to go by my gut and do what is best for me and my family, without sacrificing myself for my family.  It’s a marker.

I will see the parts that were broken.  I’ll compare them to the next terrible thing.  I’ll remember how we managed and the ways that made us stronger.  It’ll be okay.  The words will flow again.

 

Advertisements

How We Bounce Back After the Marriage Ends

I was never a tennis player.  I ran around a tennis court with my Dad once.  It was some time right after high school on the open courts in Griffith Park.  I remember having no control of the ball.  I kept swinging my arm up and sending ball after ball over the fence walls and being the person to chase them all.  It was just exhausting.  I hated the experience.  I’m sure there’s a really bad poem about that day on my hard drive somewhere. I’ll spare you the angst.

Take that same ball and include a dog willing to run around and it has a whole different feel for me. I actually enjoy throwing the ball and watching a happy dog chase it down before it lands.  It comes back a slimy mess of drool and it comes back with the expectation that the game would continue.  You throw a ball for a dog to chase and there is an exponential growth of energy and excitement.

That poor ball though, right? You reject it.  It lands and then comes back a mess.  And yet it comes back.  It bounces back.  (Just grab it before the dog gets to really start chewing.)

There are lessons here.

I know more than one cancer survivor.  The word “survivor” sounds very different from who these people are to the life they lead.  I have never met a survivor that wasn’t thriving.  I have never met one that was afraid to say the important things.  I have never met one that wasn’t stronger than they thought they could be, brave in spite of their fear, or courageous through all of their physical pain. They have mastered bouncing back.

I know more than one person that has gone through a failed relationship and the bounce back isn’t pretty.  I spoke with a woman last week and our experiences were similar.  Bouncing back was a long and hard journey that wasn’t a bounce from relationship to relationship to mask what needed healing. At the end of the road we both came out stronger, but at the lowest points, even our mothers had a hard time seeing our pain.

We know how to be alone.

We’re not afraid to be alone.  We even celebrate moments alone and you can’t threaten us with leaving. At one point it was terrifying to hear the sound of an empty home.  It’s possible to find a way to be comfortable sitting at a table for one in a crowded restaurant on date night.  We know the devastation of a relationship that has ended and taken our dreams and expectations with it.  We know how bad it can be and we know we survived with strength we didn’t know we’d find.  Most of the encouragement I had in the beginning was that I am stronger than I think I am.  It was and is true.  Who knew? Others that have been through it knew because I sure didn’t.  It’s something you find out once there is no one around to rescue you but yourself.

We know how to roar.

We have learned how to listen to our own voice and we’ve found the courage to speak for ourselves. We do what feels right because we know there will be others willing to share their opinions without support and we know at the end of the day it’s our choices with the weight in our hearts that will allow us to sleep or keep us up all night.

We know it can always be worse.

Finding your way through a life-change can knock the wind right out of you, and just when you think you can stand on your feet again, the ground shows you it can swallow you up without warning. You’ll hear about friends going through a rough patch and you won’t be able to fully empathize because you know it can always be worse and you know it has been, but you are stronger for it and you can get through it. You offer the nuggets of hope that helped you through the worst of it and laugh at the rest because that perspective shift is the control you needed to launch you past the pain.

We know how to ask for and accept support.

We know when to set our pride aside. It feels terrific to know we can do it all on our own,but sometimes we can’t.  It can be really hard to ask for support and humble ourselves, and know help doesn’t look the way we want it to and it often comes at a cost, but we ask for and accept support anyway because we know we have to.

We learn that it isn’t always about us.

A week ago I was humming to myself.  It was one of those Mariah Carey songs that end up in ranges that even dogs couldn’t hear.  I was humming badly and someone walked in on me in the office kitchenette. I was embarrassed and tried to excuse myself but the woman walking in the room didn’t even hear or really notice me.  In her head and taking up her full attention was the world that sees only her as I was in my world that saw and cared about everything I did.  Our worlds would have never met if I hadn’t stopped her to draw attention to the fact that I expected her to see me.

The world that crashed around me was my world.  In the beginning it was ugly and I was emotionally bleeding all over Facebook and to anyone that I thought cared about me.  Some friends saw more than they wanted to.  Some friends didn’t see or know anything.  Other people wanted the juicy details and my personal hell of a side show. Given space, some people will still really care, but not enough to be present.  Maybe they’ll offer space because they don’t know how to react.  Maybe they have no room for someone else’s pain. Given time, will the opinions of others matter?

We know how to bounce back.

The thing about bouncing back is you are first launched.  You are thrown far, and land hard in a way that throws you in places and ways you would never choose. You end up covered in things you would love to wash off and you accept that some of it is shame and part of that shame never belonged to you.

Shake it off.  Newton’s 3rd Law tells us every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Live boldly and prepare to be launched.  You were born to fly.

 

 

 

How I Use My Birthday to Plan Life and Death

It’s my birthday month. I know a few people that make it a month long celebration but I’m not that person. I might be too intense for those shenanigans.

I spend a couple of weeks looking for my perfect birthday gift. I don’t plan what I’ll do. It doesn’t usually work out the way I want it to when I do. It didn’t work out with my ex, and now my kids are set in what they will and will not do.

February is the month when I celebrate my next lap around the sun, rather than the last one I just completed. It’s an opportunity to jump into this next year with a sense of direction and excitement.

I spend a few days dreaming big. It’s a time to think of the ways the year felt amazing and the ways I wanted more than I experienced. The thing about a dream is it hasn’t happened yet. No matter how big or small you dream, you get to create what you imagine. Why not dream big? It’s the difference between dreaming of a slice of cheesecake and owning the shop that makes them all day. You don’t have either in front of you and you get to create the steps to get the goal you’re after. It sounds silly until you imagine the ways you stop yourself from dreaming big. I didn’t dream big as a child. My only life goal was to make enough money to hire someone to clean up after me. It’s a gift I’ve handed onto my kids. At Christmas I saw how I have been living in scarcity to the point where my kids asked for permission to dream of a wish list. I get to dream big so they can see we limit ourselves and we don’t have to.

My first big goal is a trip to Canada. Kid1 wants to go to Canada and I would love to take my boys. That means getting passports and there are steps and documents I need for that. I need to figure out where he wants to go which is hard right now. He’s not talking to me. He hates the idea I have a boyfriend that I want him to get to know. I’m giving him space for a few days, but Canada is about him so we have to find space to make amends. I get to figure out the finances when the single parent rodeo is a difficult and expensive ride and I’m a temp that hops from agency to agency when opportunities present themselves. And permission. I get to see if their Dad will allow me to travel out of the state, let alone the country. There are goals and steps and I get to figure them out and step into each task.

I work out the kinks in my planner. My planner is really just a 3 ring binder with months broken up. Rather than a budget, I set up what is due and when it’s due because bills are my reality. I have goals set to tackle certain things as a priority. I have things listed I want to experience, and I have steps broken down. It outlines my goals, but also my 18-month plan. I have sections for my kids, and finances, goals, what I need to do, field trips and reading lists. The hard part for me is deciding what I can do each day to work toward those goals. It’s easy to procrastinate.

Normally my Christmas task is to write letters but I didn’t get to it at Christmas, so I’m doing that this month as well. I write letters to my loved ones so they have my final words if I unexpectedly die. I keep track of things I would add to my obituary, so it’s easier for whoever gets to arrange that, but I also write letters to my siblings and nieces. Unlike the times when I’ve been depressed and suicidal, writing this out (in it’s morbid glory) is the one way I’m thinking of others.  When suicidal, I was incapable of thinking about others or beyond the next hour.

What is amazing is how the thought of dying really makes you appreciate what you have in living and it often makes me have conversations I would normally put off. It’s a way to force myself to clear the air and be present in my relationships. It’s a way to show my family how much I love them, even when I don’t make time for them in my selfishness.

February is my month to shoot forward into the next year and it looks like a month of planning.