Category Archives: adversity

Pity Party

We all go there sometimes, with or without hats, streamers, and blow horns. We may have been invited by a disappointment, or we may not even know how we ended up there in the first place, hog-tied and teary eyed. Pity parties are the parties that everyone has gone to at least once. And if you have only attended once, count yourself especially special. We have a million things that make us happy. We have things in our lives that make our hearts smile, people in our lives that are there when everyone else goes to their own pity party and ignores the invite to ours. That’s okay.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less of a friend any more than it means we’re any less of a friend when we can’t step out of our own muck to join in theirs. Which is why reflection, during times of joy, is particularly useful and powerful for all of us. If thinking about what we don’t have can get us into our own pity-party, then maybe thinking about what we do have can get us into our own celebration of gratitude – which is typically much healthier, not to mention good for our spirits.

I spent too much time over the holidays indulging in my own pity party. I even pulled others in, and blocked some out completely. It’s easy for the guilt-ridden part of me to focus on that, to drown in my own stupid selfishness. But now that I’m done with that party and my sunshine has shone its rays across the horizon of life again, I find that I have no interest in going back. Sure, the raccoon bagged red eyes were a beautiful site. The hunched over zombie crawl of going through the motions has its haunting attraction. But maybe it was a little ungrateful and self-indulgent of me to be that version of myself. I don’t have Cancer. I have two amazing kids. I have some of the sweetest friendships, a man who loves me even through my obnoxious moments, and a dog who revolves her days around the comings and goings of her two-legged mommy. Sure, I’ve experienced lots of death & heartbreak. I’m 40.

Still, I have 100 New Years Resolutions, and only one year to make it happen. 365 days of self-pity-free openness to life. That should cover all 100 resolutions. I’m so far from perfect, and I’m not so rose-colored as to think that I won’t struggle with this mission. But like anything else worthwhile and life-changing, I’m taking it one day at a time. My wish is that everyone takes time this year to reflect on the good, take inventory of the blessings, to reach out to those who struggle more than ourselves, and journey toward that ever-changing silver lining. Pity parties after all are so 2016. 2017 is about JOYful gratitude.

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

Only the Martyr

I was having lunch the other day with a new friend of mine, who happens to also be an only child, when it suddenly occurred to me. We onlies are expert martyrs. We stink at receiving. Not compliments. Not money. Not gifts. Sometimes, not even solicited advice is welcome.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that we spend our entire lives attempting to negate those stereotypical labels of being spoiled brats. Maybe it’s because we became SOOO good at sharing that it morphed into sacrifice. Whatever the case, it’s not ‘healthy’ to stink so badly at receiving. It’s not ‘healthy’ to play the martyr all the time no matter how naturally it comes for us.

So, why isn’t it good to be a martyr? I mean, giving is good, yes? Taking is bad, yes? Well, not all the time. Here’s the thing – martyrdom, like anything else, is good in small doses only. Here’s my experience-breeds-wisdom based list of WHY you should take up….errr…taking.

  • It makes others feel good to give or help – I am aware that this isn’t ALWAYS the case (but really, what is?), still…9 times out of 10, if someone is offering to help you with something, it’s because they can and they genuinely want to, and by giving them the satisfaction of helping you with something you need, you are actually still participating in a different form of giving, right?
  • Sanity Maintenance – The more we take on, the better we feel about ourselves, right? Wrong. Up until a certain point, we may feel quite impressed with ourselves, but if you keep throwing more balls into the juggling queue, eventually you’ll end up dropping them all, and it’s not so funny when someone signs you up for the funny farm.
  • Taking time for you and yours – Chances are, when we say ‘yes’ to help, we are also saying ‘yes’ to sharing that freed-up quality time with loved ones. While you may do no more than spend that time cuddling or sharing a meal and conversation, one thing is for sure, you won’t regret it. Life is so full of activity sometimes that we forget to enjoy the moments. The more moments we have in full presence, the fuller our lives. Period.
  • Reciprocity – If none of the other arguments worked, this one SHOULD. The more we allow others to give and ourselves to receive, the more others will allow us to give in the future. Nobody should keep score in love and friendship. I have bought into that philosophy since first watching ‘Love Story’ back in the 90’s (I know…. a little late). The motto for that movie was ‘Love means never having to say your sorry’. If either love or friendship were tallied on a simple putt-putt score card, I’m betting that neither the scores aren’t always tied. This is because we’re human! I’m also betting, however, that when all is said and done, the two most successful ‘players’ end up pretty close to each other – both numerically and emotionally.

In other words, we have to work on being REAL. Being real means admitting when we’re exhausted, lazy, overwhelmed, or just plain over-committed. For the sake of our sanity and the sanity of our loved ones, we’re doing no one any favors by playing the martyr, no matter how naturally it comes to us.

So go on…take that outreached hand. It’s actually comforting to know that we onlies are not doomed to forever be lonely, but we have to make that choice to ‘take’ a chance on others.

Solitary Contentment

Do I enjoy alone time? Absolutely! I always have. I can remember as a young child, sitting in my room, listening to albums & playing paper dolls for hours on end. On some days, the only reason I left my room was to eat. Truth be told, If I had been blessed with a real working kitchen in my room (at least with a microwave, fridge, and pantry), my mom and dad probably would’ve entirely forgotten me!

While mom was busy taking care of my dad, I was busy amusing myself. Not that she didn’t do her part of the raising, but the ‘entertaining’ part was up to me, especially after dad’s kidneys failed.

As only children, most of us learn at a young age how to self-entertain, self-console, maybe even become self-aware, and have a strong sense of self-love. Maybe that’s why we (as a species;) come across as so self-absorbed. In reality, most onlies that I know are actually so self-aware that we can become rather lost in our own thoughts and appear to not care what others are feeling or thinking at all. BUT also in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us truly want to understand others, but we’re too afraid of putting ourselves out there, which is really what it takes to form healthy relationships.

As onlies, we don’t always know how to relate to others or how to reach out and ask others for help. When we feel as though our worlds are crumbling, many of us turn inward, to the only person we can fully rely upon; ourselves. That’s not to say that people with siblings aren’t the same way at times, but I would say that onlies have nailed the whole solitary confinement thing….to a fault.

I remember when my boyfriend (also an only) and I started dating. We fervently read every article and blog we could find on ‘only’ couples… ‘only’ to find discouragement and disappointment. Most opinions and stories erred on the side of either ‘don’t do it’ or ‘it never works out’. After almost two years together, I think we would both agree that this is not true. Like any other relationship between any two people, effort has to be made, people cannot take one another for granted, and compromise and full communication should be practiced daily.

In fact, I would say that the most difficult factor in an only dating an only is that we are so fiercely wired to turn inward when we don’t know how to react to an emotion that we choose instead to bottle up the hurt. While my boyfriend and I rarely fight, I can honestly say that any and all of the disagreements we’ve had have resulted from one thing; a lack of communication.

Lesson… in progress…

Still, communication takes lots and lots of effort from both people. Leaning on each other when we’re accustomed to sucking it up solo is the first step. While that feels a bit awkward and out of our neat little boxes, it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as I had expected. I think this is monumental and essential for all couples, but especially for relationships involving two onlies.

While one only can understand another only better than anyone, we also tend to have the same passive aggressive tendencies, and let things go on far longer than we should. It’s far easier and less confrontational to shove those small disagreements under a rug than to sweep them out into the open and work through the kinks. Unfortunately, as we all know, if you gather enough small things together they collectively become a very huge thing. That huge conflict under the rug becomes a major obstacle over which neither of us can avoid tripping.  And because we really ARE two separate people, with two separate pasts and two separate loads of dirty laundry baggage, we’re not always going to completely understand. And that’s okay.

We all come at these relationships with our own muddled perceptions, and whether we’re onlies or otherwise, it takes oodles of communication, effort, and determination to build a strong healthy relationship. But above and beyond everything else that takes effort in this world, love is worth every last bit of blood, sweat, and tears. After all, we may have come into this world alone, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to live a lonely life. Like my good friend Michelle always says (and I couldn’t agree more), there really is a ‘lid for every pot’.

Back to Strife

Seven hours of staring at the long and not-so-winding road. Seven hours of listening to the same four CDs, the same sibling arguments, the same milling around for more snacks of blueberries & beef jerky. This was the same seven hours that reminded me of the old game ‘seven minutes in heaven’ that we all remember from our little middle school co-ed parties. The nerves, the anticipation, the  imagination getting the best of me, all of that rolled into seven LONG hours of road trip left before we were all back to these dark clouds that have become our life.

It was only this time last year that I was counting my blessings. I couldn’t believe how kind life had been since mom’s passing, how easy everything had seemed. I was entering into a new relationship with the man of my dreams, the one I had ‘ordered’ from the universe itself. I had just spent the weekend becoming Reiki 1 certified, and work was going splendidly down the path of growth and prosperity. I had an assistant who was organized, and quite the initiative taker, and she would be my first assistant ever. I was blessed to have her running the show while I was running the business. I was lucky. Blessed. And I loved every minute of it, all the while feeling that tinge of ‘it can’t last’ that always seems to swoop in and sabotage things. I didn’t order THAT! Or did I?

Fast forward to now. I am still blessed, and still lucky to have the man of my dreams at my side through thick and thin. I am still blessed, and still lucky to have two very healthy boys who I love with everything I am. I am still blessed, and still lucky to have an assistant who knows the company inside and out and gives as much as she can of herself to make things run when I am away. But I am struggling with family issues, past mistakes, poor choices, and silly decisions made during less confident, and less courageous periods of my life. It just goes to show that we can only sweep the junk in our lives under the rug for so long until it starts seeping out of the edges, forming unmercifully into blinding tears at the most inopportune moments of our lives. Generally, it all happens at once too, just like a great big crap-storm from which we are never truly prepared to take cover.

So now that we’re home, and swimming in this flood of muck created by the jaws of strife, it’s almost reassuring to know that if we’re going through THIS NOW, we will be going through much MUCH better stuff later, because that’s how life rolls. And maybe next time that ‘it can’t last’ voice switches on, I will switch it right back off into the great big crap-storm of not-my-problemville where it belongs.  Be lucky. Feel blessed. I do. Just because I’m here to write this.

Namaste.

 

Bitter Beginnings

When you know that you’re supposed to be with someone; that there is no one else in the world so perfect for you. When you know that that someone makes you happier than you knew possible. When you sleep more peacefully with that someone than you do alone, because you feel safe, secure, and protected for once. That’s when it’s easy to become frustrated with circumstances, but that’s also when you know, that as long as it takes, and as long as you need to wait, you absolutely will.

As a single mom of two wonderful boys, I find myself frustrated almost every Friday night. My boyfriend and I had 6 months of every other weekend spent together, bonding, getting to know each other, exploring cities and cultures together. But in light of current circumstances, i.e. one of the dads cannot be trusted to keep my child, we have had to put our ‘alone together’ time on hold. There was no question about that. His safety/ happiness is first.

Where does that leave us – two star-crossed lovers, crazy about each other, and always wanting more? Well, it leaves us in the hands of Faith. Like everything else leading up to ‘us’, this time just makes us appreciate one another more; makes us enjoy time alone together exponentially more, and gives us time to fantasize and daydream about how we want our lives to be…until that fantasy becomes a reality.

Love isn’t ever perfect. There are always obstacles, challenges, and battles.  But when you find you’re one, the peace sets in, and God whispers gently ‘I got this’. The amazing thing is that he truly does.  As for ‘mine and me’, I don’t ever question that. God has been in this relationship the entire time. There has never been just HE and I, and that is how I KNOW this is forever.

All About Stars

Last night, my son and I read ‘How to Catch a Star’. A wonderful children’s book all about trying to attain something too far away, something impossible, that at first seemed quite possible. The main character attempts many times to reach and capture the star using various methods, and at the end, finally captures not a celestial body but rather a star fish – just sitting there for the taking.

Tonight, both of my sons and I watched ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, an adaptation of the John Greene novel bearing the same name, about two Cancer ridden teens who fall madly and deeply in love. Again, something that seems so possible – falling in love – becomes something that seems completely impossible, living out that love. What we took away from this gruelingly sad story however, was that the ‘stars’ we were looking for were not the stars we captured, and (as it turns out) maybe it truly is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

Having experienced so many losses in a small period of time, I think we all understood the message of this plot in its entirety. The story initiated a conversation between my boys and I about the shortness of life, about the sense of urgency that exists and results from an understanding that living is only a moment, and we are fortunate enough to have the ability to choose in this moment how we wish to spend it, how we wish to live this life. And if we are blessed enough to have our health within this moment, we should live it to the fullest, reaching for every star along the way – be they reachable or completely impossible.

I have been struggling with impossibilities lately myself. Whether or not I can continue breathing life into a company I didn’t create, whether or not I will be completely accepted by those I love, baggage and all. But what the combination of these two starry nights have revealed to me is that it’s all about perspective. Whether or not we choose to believe we can reach those stars, those wants & dreams, we have that choice, and that in itself is a miracle. We may not get what we’re reaching for in the way we imagined, but if we believe we can lasso a star, we will do just that – even if only for a moment. And it’s in those moments of living life that purpose is revealed, love is captured, and our stars become aligned for the taking.

Resolve to solve

I don’t know how to quit. There are lots of circumstances in life where this is a valuable trait, and there are some that are more questionable. I roller skated for 6 years, ages 6 – 12. I was married twice, both times for 6 years. All three of those came to an abrupt halt. I skated until my coaches moved away and there were no more local coaches. I was married the first time until he asked for divorce, and married the second time until it was clear that he was unwilling to sacrifice his mistress pill addiction for the likes of little ole me.

With all of these experiences, I should have maybe learned how to quit before I was quit. You would think I would be a little more untrusting, a little less open, a little less forgiving. But life cannot harden me, and I’ve learned to accept that. Not because I’m a martyr or a saint because I’m far from those things. Being determined is not something that I’ve chosen, but it is something that has been seemingly written into my DNA, with or without my approval. I am a forgiver, and I keep trudging ahead no matter what. I am convinced that God wants me this way for a reason that I don’t yet understand.

Maybe because of this, I am willing to try one last time at love. And this love is the love of my life.

It’s my first time being in love without doubt, and quite honestly, I didn’t think that was possible in real life. When you can be with someone who opens up to you, and isn’t scared of being vulnerable. When you can be with someone, and still be yourself completely, and do as you would when you’re alone…talk to like you would talk when your alone or in prayer…well, that’s special stuff. It’s like being naked, emotionally, psychologically…like you have no fear in the world. I have never been so liberated. I have never felt so complete. I have to believe that THIS is the very reason I have been through so much and remained soft and forgiving. As trusting as I am, there have always been red flags in my relationships, there have always been doubts and fears, but as hard as I try, those demons are nothing less than GONE, and I didn’t even try to hide them. They simply do not exist.

There are things in life that come up that we have to fight against, food addiction, laziness, bad habits, maybe even destructive patterns. But from time to time, we experience a barrier that isn’t made to be broken, because that barrier is at our core, and will take us to the next chapter of our lives.

Every day I awaken to a new hope because I still believe in the one thing that gets me through everything. That, my friends, is love.

One Year Later…

One year ago tonight, I was tucking myself in under a warm fuzzy blanket that I refuse to bury myself beneath a year later. My stepfather was snoring across the room on an uncomfortable makeshift chair, my aunt was rolling around trying to find comfort in turmoil, and my mom’s breathing was labored and erratic in the hospice bed next to me. We had been told by the nurse that she was nearing the end, and not to expect her to live through the following day, possibly not even through the night. Sleep was teasing me, as well as my aunt and stepdad, and was as erratic and unpredictable as my mom’s breathe.

The anticipation was just as intense as the dread, and I remember thinking of the similarities that exist between the waiting for the birth of a baby, and waiting for the death of my mom. I knew that Heaven was waiting just as intently as me, but didn’t the angels, didn’t God know I wanted her with me MORE? At that thought, I remember chuckling a bit under my breath ‘Life isn’t fair’. I could still here her say it in the same voice she used when I was little. After six weeks of sleep deprivation and keeping it all together, I could feel my own sanity starting to slip a little, but I wouldn’t let it. Mom taught me strength as much as she could. In retrospect, I was strong. In the last year, I’ve had many moments where that strength has diminished into weeping wails of sorrow, and I’ve been told by friends who have also lost their moms that it doesn’t get easier.

Maybe it doesn’t. Only time will tell.

What I do know is that for the last year, I have felt my mom’s presence, heard her voice, seen her blessings, and sensed her approval. I’ve experienced difficult times, when I didn’t know which way to turn, but I’ve also experienced incredible times when I felt that I may explode with happiness, only to realize my mom isn’t here to share in those joys. But with every step, every tear, every breakdown, every giggle, I feel her and imagine that she’s wrapping her arms around me. Sometimes I think that she has more pull in my life now that she’s up there with the big man himself, and maybe she does. The other possibility is that maybe she taught me well, and maybe – just maybe- she knows that.

Good, Better, Best

When I was but a wee teen, I had the privilege of hearing the first most influential speaker of my life. It was at a church retreat, and the speaker went by ‘Deacon Don’. Although he was of my mom’s generation, and we teens were of the mentality that our parents knew nothing, most of us were captivated by his talk. His story was both universally appealing and personal, and his message resonated with us, not necessarily because we had been raised in as rigid of an environment as he, but because we had all felt the pressures of being human and living the tedious and sometimes tumultuous process of developing into young adults.

While I don’t recall the exact stories he told, the message lives within me to this day. As a child growing up, his father challenged him in every aspect, always responding to Don’s successes by saying ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest. Make the good better and the better best.’. If he brought home a report card with all A’s and one B, his father would challenge him to bring up that B. When he won a race in track, it would be the same. How could he improve upon winning an entire race? By achieving a faster race time, the next go around of course.

I remember thinking, ‘Geez, how much better can he get Mr. Dad? He won the race, he achieved perfect scores, what do you want from him?’. As a parent, I still agree that this level of expectation and pressure is overkill. However, as an adult, I must say that I finally understand the true point of this. On an individual level, if we’re always striving to be better than the self we were yesterday, we’re always going to be moving in the right direction. How can one truly digress if we’re so focused on progress? This isn’t to say we won’t have failures, pitfalls, and straight-up rock bottoms. But if we’re focused on improvement, we won’t find ourselves trapped there at rock bottom, because we always have our old selves as a shadow competitor. Therefore, we always have something to accomplish – a purpose, a goal, a record, something tangible and close in memory to better and a reason to make the best of ourselves.

In this journey called life, we will always encounter someone who is better, stronger, faster, wiser, funnier, ‘better’ than we are. If we have that innate competitive spirit, those are the people that can make us or break us, if we choose to focus on our competition. By focusing on outside competition, however, we lose sight of the internal workings of our own psyche and accountability is lost. Blame is always directed at someone outside of ourselves. In truth, our harshest competition lies within. We have demons. Each and every one of us.

For me, this demon takes physical form. I have never been in battle with myself on a mental, emotional, or spiritual level. However, my physical form at 5′ with a muscular ‘stout’ build, has always been my arch enemy. No matter how much I try and become less ‘stout’, no matter how many miles I run, no matter how many times I kick the old rugged bag or lift weights, it’s never enough to transform the reflection I see. I never make the good better and the better best, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

While that may sound depressing, even hopeless, I think I have finally found a silver lining, and therefore, a victory in my own war. The fact that I love the internal Heather, the ‘light’ that shines through me and encompasses and sometimes even (hopefully) helps others, is healthy – even purposeful and fulfilling enough to keep me sane and motivated. Still, in a very simple sense, staying active in my physical battle, and never throwing in the towel means that I stay physically healthy and driven. I am fully aware, at 37, that my battle has everything to do with vanity and nothing to do with actual health, as I am not overweight or unhealthy. I am also fully aware of why I am never satisfied. I was targeted as a chubby teenager, made fun of, even laughed at. I wasn’t asked to prom, and didn’t date anyone worthwhile. I watched as my mother constantly struggled with self-image, and constantly battled the same war as me. However, my mom didn’t commit. She didn’t keep fighting the fight. While she spent her life taking care of others, she didn’t take care of herself. I always wanted to be a mom just like her, except that I didn’t want to give up on me. And on the day that she took her last breath, what she didn’t know was that my prayer and promise to myself was to keep fighting for the sake of me as well as for my children. I felt her regret, and there was only the one.

So I wake up each day with a purpose, and usually many purposes, but one thing holds true; I want to remain focused on making the ‘me’ better, so that I can be the best me I can be. While I know that I will never ‘win’ that victory, and that my reflection will never be the ‘best’, I at least know that I’m doing everything in my power to make that a reality. In the end, I want no regrets. In the end, I will know I have done my best. Ironically, that is exactly what my mom always told me was THE most important thing I could do.