Sick and Tired

I have been under the weather for almost two weeks now. This past weekend I spent almost all of it in bed sleeping off this crud. I don’t know what it is and it tends to worry me. As much as I hate to see other family members ill, I’m really glad they all have what I have–it means, in a way, that this is probably not cancer related. It is just kicking me in the butt much harder than everyone else. Then Justin came home with a letter from his school saying that there was a confirmed case of H1N1 Flu present in his school. It really wigged me out. Lots of disinfecting, sanitizing, and handwashing going on here.

I had my yearly physical last night. I sat face to face with the woman who didn’t listen to my moans and groans for a year and just thought I was in need of Xanax or Prozac or both. I know she felt bad, but instead of rubbing it in, I just filled her in on how the year has gone. I wish I wouldn’t have been overtired and wiped out from my huge cold. It makes me more emotional and when she was asking me big questions, I just couldn’t help it, I started crying. God, I wish I wouldn’t have done that. Then, she thought she was right in her initial assessment of what kinds of medications I should be taking. That made me even more upset because why can’t someone just cry anymore without someone thinking they need to be in a doped up state just to relate to what’s going on in their lives. She has put me off to the nurse practitioner all year–since my diagnosis. I’ve been mad at this doctor for a year. Last night I was just too tired and feeling like crud to tell her how I felt about that. The one thing I was really hoping she would help me out on was my request to have an ultrasound done. She wouldn’t. I cried. Again.

Do I think I need an ultrasound? I don’t know. Do I want an ultrasound. Yes. I worry constantly about this metastasizing to my ovaries or my uterus. Pap smears only detect cervical cancer and I will admit–that as unpleasant as those exams are, there are worse things and usually they never bothered me much. Last night–my first one since all this has happened to me–was more anxiety-ridden than any other I had ever had. I had to sit on my hands so she wouldn’t see them shaking. What if? What if something comes back on that? It’s been 7 months since my initial diagnosis–what could happen in that time frame? I know the tumor that was found was said to be a grade three–most severe–even for as tiny as it was and that it was multiplying very rapidly. Could other radicals have found a host by now and be multiplying elsewhere?

Could it be that this is the reason why I am soooooo exhausted anymore? I just can’t believe that a few months ago I had been working and studying 20 hours a day and getting 4 hours of sleep–if I was lucky–every night for three years. Now I can barely see straight come 7pm.

Is my body once again growing and feeding some dragon inside me? Without anyone willing to let me have an ultrasound or pet scan–how will I ever know? I would just like ONE of each–a baseline–to know where I started and that way if I was feeling symptoms of something they would have a marker of where it has come from. Especially now–when Jeff may be losing his job and that will result in a loss of insurance benefits–which makes me pre-existing almost everywhere else. While I have the insurance–just let me do it! Why can’t the doctors code it so it doesn’t look like it was routine? Why does it have to be assumed to be–especially when the initial cancer diagnosis is the underlying reason for wanting one in the first place. I just don’t get it. It makes me so angry. It makes me cry, because I just don’t feel like I’m being heard or that I am just another cancer patient. Trying to “live my life” as my first oncologist told me to do is nearly impossible at times. Its not the same. I don’t think it ever will be no matter how hard I try to carry on with a smile on my face. It just masks the deep pain I feel over the unknown.

Then again–would I really want to know? What if the scans came back and I was glowing like a fire cracker? Would I really want to see that? Would that make me even more overemotional? Probably. But–why wait until you have symptoms–then it’s too late. Wouldn’t you want to know if you have a huge brain tumor or spots on your lungs, or tentacles wrapped around your ovaries? The quicker you can have surgery and cut it out–the better your chances–right? I know it all sounds irratic, but these are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. It’s hard at times to forget, and I make it harder on myself when I don’t follow my nutrition regimine that my nutritionist has worked with me on all summer. Or when I forget to take my Tamoxifin. Major guilt trip. I feel like I have some sort of control with those things or with the exercising, but I am still partly in denial and not being consistent. I have not fully jumped on the bandwagon–I did early on, but now I am falling off and being drug by the cart. I know I need to recommit. I know.

Could it be the Tamoxifin that’s wiping me out? I know it has played a part in my early menopause and with that–could that be making me so tired? Speaking of the Tamoxifin, I tried to see if I could have the doctor’s office prescribe all 5 yrs. worth of meds. in advance. I am terrified that we won’t have insurance and I will not be able to even afford the cost of my prescriptions each month. I have no idea what the cost is, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, right? So, I called there and I didn’t even think about the shelf life factor until the nurse pointed it out. She also really sounded odd and then she told me that they could only refill the Rx monthly so that individuals would be less inclined to sell the drugs elsewhere. Oh my gosh, great, now my oncologist’s office thinks I’m a pill pusher on the black market somewhere and I will be watched for that. It made me laugh in a way and then I realized that there are probably thousands of women in just the same boat I’m in–if not worse. Think about all the women in third world countries who don’t get the Tamoxifin. Then, I think about how I live in America and I will be considered pre-existing here pretty soon–unless an insurance miracle happens and Jeff gets a new job without a pre-existing condition clause.

Is it that it takes a very long time for your body to recover from chemo–(even though I only had one full treatment before becoming severely allergic and going into respiratory arrest)? how long does it take before your energy levels return? Do they?

Is my body fighting against something or just trying to still heal? I know 6 months later, my body is still not draining the lymphatic fluid correctly. Only two lymph nodes were taken out in surgery and my body should have, by now, compensated and learned how to move the fluid through my body. But it still pools under the scar tissue in my chest and it is painful. Weirdly–the whole top of my chest is numb–all the nerves severed, but deeper–around the muscle–it’s still terribly painful. How long will that last? Will it last forever? Is it my body trying to tell me to lay down and get vertical so the fluid can move better? Is my body just working overtime? I do worry about that lymphedema every day and knowing how its pooling in my chest doesn’t help my worries. The surgeon doesn’t seem too worried although in my 2nd followup with him two weeks ago, he was concerned about the continued pain factor I’m having. He didn’t suggest anything, though–so I guess I just live with it.

Will I ever feel the same?

Will my psoriasis ever go away? It seems to be worse these days and that was one of the first indications that I found that alerted me to something being wrong. I know stress exacerbates psoriasis and I am truly amazed I am not covered head to toe in the stuff. Be thankful its just on my elbows, right?

Is the constant stress of the cancer, my self-image, my oldest daughter, how everything is affecting my younger children, my husband’s impending job loss, the uncertainty that will bring to us financially, the loss of benefits, the mounting medical bills for me and for Jasmine, the stress on our marriage and all of our relationships just taking its toll and no amount of counseling can really fix ALL the triggers at this point?

Once this metastasizes–it is really hard to detect if it goes to the ovaries or to the uterus. Why can’t we just schedule a hysterectomy at this point. I’m really inwardly wigging out about this and even though my new oncologist doesn’t want to start “butchering” for no good reason especially when the genetic tests have all come back fairly positive–I can’t help but think–Isn’t cancer a good enough reason? I suppose if I wanted it done badly enough and threw a big enough temper tantrum–I’d get my way–but am I just being over reactional about it? If I’m no longer using the stuff–take it out. That’s three less places for this to land and I will know that I am not going to die from those associated cancers.

Sigh. Sometimes my brain gets so ramped up with these thoughts that they just spew out onto the page. I have to keep coming back to my bible to try to help quiet myself. My goal of self-quieting has been a hard one to tackle this year. I think it also gets revved up as my doctor visits start coming. I will go see the plastic surgeon tomorrow to talk about reconstruction–something I totally didn’t think I was ready for, but with the possibility of losing insurance and the fact that they will now pay for a boob job–I’m going to talk about the options. It may not even be an option, but I have to go and check it out or I will be mad at myself if I let the opportunity slip away. Next week, I see my oncologist for a 3 month check up. I hope we will look at bloodwork and see if anything shows up there. I don’t know what I should be asking him at this point because I just feel like everyone wants me to “live my life”. If any of you have any questions I should be mulling over for him, please let me know. I would welcome them whole heartedly.

I received my long awaited call from NAFCC (National Assoc. for Family Child Care) that my long overdue national accreditation observation is about to happen. I have been working on it for two years. I applied for the observation the end of December 2008. Normally, you should get a call between 4-6 weeks to schedule the observation. Here we are 9 months later and I will finally undergo this on October 6, 2009. They have been swamped since revising their re-accreditation standards and since I am a newbie, I guess, I was not a priority. I often think of what that would have been like should I have gotten that call within the normal time period. I was just getting diagnosed with breast cancer. I would not have been ready for that at all. Looking back, I really am surprised I made it through the summer and really glad that this observation is coming while the house is quieter. I guess I should be grateful that it is happening after my mastectomy, after all the big rowdy boys went off to school, after a regular naptime had been re-established for the little ones, and after my head came back from Bizarro World.

Since this call came through, I haven’t been able to think about too much else in the past week–including the cancer stuff and I have truly welcomed the break. It makes me realize that when I am working on something I’m passionate about, I get a lot accomplished————(Why can’t I get truly passionate about my cancer?)———- I’ve been going through all my checklists making sure all my T’s have been crossed and my i’s have been dotted. I have a book that takes me a few hours to get through each time because I am really focusing on doing my best. I have been through it several times and plan on several more read throughs. I spent all last week working on my parent teacher conferences and getting those in order. I was glad to get them all done so I could move on to more paperwork that has been lagging. I screwed up my classes this year, but I am not going to screw up this. I have worked too hard. I want to be able to look back on 2009 and know that despite the huge setback, I was able to accomplish this major accomplishment. Usually centers or schools or colleges are accredited. It isn’t that often that in-home providers become accredited. So, I am working day in and day out right now and everyone in my family has their very own honey-do lists. I’ll get there slowly, but surely and quite honestly, I’m ready–its just the details I’m going back for. Tons of details, but it will all come together.

I’ve also been allowing several college students studying at St. Ambrose Univ. to come tour my environment. This is good practice for me as they are able to give me fresh eyes. They are students studying to be teachers–how I wish I could go back to school–but I am not ready yet. Maybe next year. Maybe this is why I was supposed to ultimately take the break from my college courses this year. To ready myself for accreditation. To make sure my head was still in the game. I can honestly say that I was in a perfect position to give up on everything I had worked for professionally. Just chuck it and spend my days playing with my family. It was a summer where I was re-evaluating everything in my life and trying to figure out if things were still working or if they needed changing in some way or another. When I look at my chosen profession, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love working with kids. I love where I work. I love the tools I get to work with! Some people provide child care as a means to an end, a temporary job while their own kids are young, but me–it really drives me. I absolutely love what I do and when I had really looked at all the reasons why I do what I do, I realized my head was ready to take on the observer that would come spend the day with me. If I could just shake this illness now…

We celebrated my son’s 6th birthday this past week. Time flies. I asked him what the best present he got was and he looked at me and told me it was me and that he was super happy I wasn’t dead. “Gee, thanks, babe–I love you too” is what I responded with. 🙂 I’m grateful I got to see him turn 6 and I am glad I’m not dead yet. Lord knows how I’ve worried over that all summer. So, I’m grateful I’m alive. I’ve survived my diagnosis for 7 months now. Almost a year. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

I have begun a Wellness class at the YMCA. It is 12 weeks of free personal training–2X/wk. for 1 1/2 hrs. each eve. The best part–its free! I get to work with a personal trainer for free for 12 weeks! I missed the first class because I was sick two weeks ago. I went to both classes last week and thought I was going to die each night. I began working on my WII fit on the off nights, but this cold/flu is really pulling me down. I am so happy for the outlet and MAKING ME a priority. I have met a handful of other breast cancer survivors that are in various stages of their disease or treatment and I just know that will be instrumental in my mental comeback. I think being able to dedicate time to working out will also help me release those endorphins I haven’t seen in a very long time which will help relax me, help me sleep better, make me feel like WANTING to recommit to my nutrition plan again, making me WANT to be more consistent with my med taking, and maybe inthe process, I will lose the 30 pounds I’ve tacked on. UUUGGGHHH! I am bigger than I was when I was pregnant with Jordan (she was the biggest baby)! Could it be the Tamoxifin that is helping me pack on the weight? I know that stress will pack on the weight also and I am surprised I’m not morbidly obese. The added weight make me more sluggish so, I have to lose it.

My other major concern is that I’ve been told that estrogen is stored in fat and since I’m sporting my own personal flotation device around my mid section these days–I need to find something to help me deflate it. I have to lose the weight–I worry every day that the hormone that is feeding my cancer is setting up shop and getting comfy in my fat. Ok–who am I kidding–I also want to lose the weight before my next class reunion next summer–I was so worried what everyone was going to think about my hair–now I just want to walk in and have everyone think, “wow, she looks great for having cancer”. I know. I know. Completely immature and shallow, but who wants to come back after 25 years looking like crap? Yes, I know all the stuff about the inner beauty, outer beauty, lasting beauty stuff, but when it comes right down to it, I really just hope that all my beauties are playing on a level field by then (and I really hope I drop 30 pounds!) :). I’ve run into a few friends from high school, they all happen to be nurses. They have all said I look good–my color is good and since they work with sick people all the time, they can tell when a person is sick. I guess I’ve got that going for me. Problem with that is–I’d rather have hair and a boob–omg–I just did it–I said something very generically–I take that back–let me be specific…

I’d rather have a headful of healthy, blonde, soft, stylishly coiffed hair that I could seductively whip around should I be in the mood for some lovin’, be able to pull it back when I’m feeling playful, and be able to run my fingers through it to tousle it and have that wind blown look that most women dream of. And–I’d rather have two boobs–the same size–preferably a little lifted and energized looking with a natural looking nipple tattooed on the new one. I used to wonder about having bigger boobs and although I wouldn’t mind them a tad larger, I’d now just be happy to look like I did. So a perky 34B would be great. Afterall, it’s not the size–it’s how you package them! I think that’s it–have I forgotten anything? Please feel free to let me know if that wish needs a little more something something. I will be checking out the silicone stockroom tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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Lost and Found

Sunset on the Mississippi

Sunset on the Mississippi

Written on August 14, 2009

I woke up yesterday with that dead feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something just didn’t feel right. “Maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep or maybe I was just really hungry”, I thought as I got up in the wee hours of the morning. I knew it was something else and I could feel the anxiety start even as I maneuvered through a dark house. Two weeks. It had been two weeks since Jasmine took off again. She had only been home for five days. Prior to that, I had dropped everything and raced out to Ohio where she was found in an emergency room. I know that most people could not begin to fathom the stress our family has been put under this particular year. Just the cancer alone was knocking us down, but to have a child that goes missing–repeatedly, being told repeatedly there’s nothing anyone can do to help us or her, and to watch your other children suffer as a result of both–well the monumental stress of that far surpasses the stress of cancer and I’m beginning to think that if the one won’t kill me–the stress of the other will.

I managed the day with a two-fer–field trip to the Children’s Museum in the morning, and a pool outing in the afternoon complete with a picnic in the park. One last big hurrah before the last of the 4 boys goes off to kindegarten. The weather was hot, the sun was shining, and I knew I desperately needed the calming effects of the water to wash over me. There’s nothing that can do it any better for me then a semi-empty pool on a hot day. I could have stayed there and played with the kids all day. I could have. I wanted to. I told myself that I was dropping everything and spending time at the pool with my kids this weekend. Everything else could wait. I needed to take care of my stress levels. So, with that self-made profession, I loaded the kids up at the end of a couple fantastic hours and we headed home to deliver them all to their folks. Once the last one was gone, I ran inside, changed clothes, and raced off to the Arsenal to work in the Child Development Home. Some question why I choose to work there or at my music studio for a couple hours each evening. They question as to whether it heightens my stress level. Quite the contrary, actually. At either place–its really quiet. I still get to work with kids–something I’m passionate about–and there’s no phone ringing, dog barking, etc. Last night was no exception. It was so peaceful out at the Cottage. I only had one little girl who was simply delightful and made me laugh as she jabbered about this and that on our walk.

I sat on the porch swing for a long time with her and I realized how much I missed the porch swing of my house in Davenport. It dawned on me that I had been seriously void of any swing therapy for myself in the past 4 years. When I left, the breeze was blowing in and the hazy sun was beginning to set. I decided to take the way off the Island that snakes you along the Mississippi. I was so taken aback by the peace and calm of the evening, the breeze blowing across the river, the sun giving off its final burst before setting into the horizon, and the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. I stopped the car, drank in the solitude for just a moment, then took my phone out and snapped a picture. I was so appreciative for the lull in my life at that moment. True to the forces that are governing my life right now, though, the moment was gone as quickly as it appeared and the ringtone on my phone interrupted the silence. I looked at who was calling in and my heart skipped a few beats. I sucked in my breath and quickly answered, “Hey Mitch, what’s up”. Mitch was the boy that left with Jasmine on that cross country trip which culminated into a quarantine unit of St. Anne’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio.

I have found it extremely difficult to really be able to discern which of Jasmine’s friends are truly concerned for her safety. The numbers of kids who are more eager to pressure her into God knows what or to emotionally yank her down are staggering. I have only found a handful through the years that do not view me as the enemy–the adult who is just trying to put the cabosh on whatever good time may be going on. Yes, there are still times when I have to control myself from chewing those friends out as well, but I try very hard to remember that none of us in this world are perfect. We all make mistakes and kids just do them on a more regular basis until one day–the lightbulb turns on. This handful of true friends knows Jasmine’s problems and still love her. They are genuinely worried for her safety and well-being and have formed an alliance of sorts with me to do what it takes to see she gets the help she needs. Mitch is no different and if weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have half the clue I do about the circumstances revolving around her extensive roadtrip earlier this summer.

“Mrs. Heald, drop what your doing. Jasmine just called me and she is in a lot of trouble. She’s hurt and needs to go to the hospital.”

At the same time, my husband beeped in–“Jasmine just called–she wants to come home–she’s not doing well”.

I wanted to throw up. Right there on the banks of the Mississippi. How much worse can it be this time? Each time she took off and came back, she was in much more perilous physical condition then the time before. The ailments were at times life threatening. I cannot begin to describe the feelings you go through as a parent when you get these types of calls. Knowing that HIPPA laws were going to prevent any medical staff from relaying information to me since my child was 17 only increased my anxiety. I told Mitch he would probably reach her faster than I would and to go to her and don’t let her leave his sight. I told him to text me the exact location and I would contact 911.

A coordinated effort was quickly put into place between two neighboring communities and paramedics were called once the text message came through. I raced off to find the ambulance fearing the worst, but hoping for the best. I passed an ambulance going in the opposite direction. I wondered if that was hers. There are two hospitals close to where she was found. I wasn’t sure which one she would be taken to. When the 911 dispatcher called me back to tell me both hospitals were full and she was enroute to the West Campus, I knew I had just passed her. I turned around and raced down the side streets to avoid the lights. I arrived to see three squad cars and an ambulance. My heart stopped. I turned the car off and sat in there for just a few more moments so I could do some much needed praying.

“Dear God, please surround my daughter with your loving arms and help lift her up out of this Hell she has been suffering in. Help ease her afflictions and quietly whisper your word in her ear so she may be reminded you are there with her always”.

I ran into the emergency room and was buzzered in. I could hear her crying through the hallway. When I opened the door, my heart broke once again. I went to her and held her and told her I loved her just as I had done in Ohio, just as I had over Mother’s Day weekend when we stood in the rain under a streetlight behind a restaurant. Each time she has been lost and then found, I ask her if she has reached her bottom. Each time she says yes. Each time we are all amazed that she still has had further to sink. There is nothing so saddening then to see a young person who once used to be filled with laughter and love and life, gifted with musical talent and beauty, and graced with such intelligence that many colleges were lining up to grant scholarships to–and then within a period of one year–its gone–and all that remains is the shell of that person. A shell that has also been so badly wounded that you barely recognize the person standing before you.

The one thing that remains a constant in this whole nightmare is that I am her mother. I have not agreed with or respected the decisions she has made this past year, but I am and always will be her mother and I will love her just the same. She was given to me by God to raise and to guide in her journey through life. How could I forsake her now when she needs me the most. Even though I want to lecture her until my tongue falls out–what good would that do? She is in obvious deep, emotional and physical pain. Earlier this year, I would have had no problem giving her a piece of my mind. It wasn’t until I met a woman in our local wig boutique one day. She said something to me that day that has resounded through me all summer. I don’t remember her name, but I’ll never forget her face. The enlightenment that I received from that chance encounter helped open my eyes in a few if not many areas of my life. I will elaborate more in another post, but for now let me leave you with the wisdom she imparted—-“Just Own It”.

As I pondered that over the next several days, I realized it not only had to do with my life and what was happening to me in reference to my cancer treatment, my hair loss, or my emotional ups and downs–but it very well could take a place in my understanding how my relationship with my oldest daughter needed to be evaluated. It was very evident to everyone that I had become for quite some time completely against all of my daughter’s life choices. They were completely against everything and anything I had ever tried to instill in her. She was making choices that I knew would have life long consequences, and as any mother, I would never have chosen those decisions for her. I realize that they are her decisions. She’s going to have to learn the lessons that come from them. I just know–having already been young–that you can either go through life the easy way or the hard way. The way she was choosing is certainly NOT how I would have advised her, but some idividuals just need to learn the lessons on their own even if its a much harder row to hoe.

Looking back over this year, I saw myself completely disassociating myself from her. I was becoming indifferent toward her. I didn’t want to see her and the chaos that lied in her wake. I didn’t want others to see it. I didn’t want others to judge what kind of mother must she have had for her to be so out of control. I knew in my heart that we had always provided for our daughter and our other children the values and beliefs of our family and our church. I knew that we were good, honest, hard-working, nurturing, loving, playful parents who enjoyed spending time with our kids in and out of school. We have supported all their ideas and extra currirular endeavors and we have always had their back when it came to anything that they needed our help with. Then, they start growing up and making their own decisions–ones that could have devastating consequences and you are frustrated, infuriated that all you’ve taught them has gone in one ear and out the other, disappointed that the dreams you had for them are not the dreams they have for themselves, and in a way–embarrassed. People judge. They do. Just like they love to tear something apart. It’s human nature–not the best side of it, but it is.

It was easier to turn into one of those people at that point. It was easier for me to start tearing apart all her ideas and thoughts and actions. It was easier for me to DIS-OWN her than it was for me to accept her and all her baggage and all her bad choices. It was so much easier for me to not care because caring was tearing my heart into tiny little pieces. In a way, it was a self-preservation technique. I know that sounds messed up, but I had gotten to a place where I just couldn’t handle any more. I had just been diagnosed with cancer. I was trying to juggle jobs and family and house and school and here was this entitiy–this child I had given birth to–who was now very symbolically spitting in our face and giving us the bird to everything we had tried to teach her. It was more than I could bear. The centrifigal force of my world spinning out of control has been uncomparable to anything I’ve ever known. So, it really hit me in the face like a ton of bricks when this woman told me, “Just Own It”.

I realized, as I said before, that I had begun to dis-own my oldest child. I couldn’t take what others must be whispering behind my back about her upbringing or about my daughter for that matter. I knew they all didn’t have a clue–no real intimate knowledge of the workings of my family and I was clinging to those friends of mine who did understand. They have been my saving grace through this along with an intense amount of prayer. It was extremely difficult for me to admit that I had begun to disown her. It’s a common element that runs pretty prevalent through our family and I was also beginning to realize that the thing I feared the most–losing my child–was actually happening with my help. I was becoming much like my own mother and that caused me so much grief I began to suffer terrible anxiety attacks.

I knew that the only thing I could do to help ease the pain in my heart was to “Own It”. Own that I have a teen that is making really bad decisions. Own that I can’t control everything about her life. Own that I do and will always love her. Own that people will always talk, but it is me that has to look myself in the mirror and ask myself if I have done everything that I can for the children God has entrusted me to teach. Own that I am not perfect and I make mistakes also and I have to forgive her. In essence, I was going to have to OWN Jasmine, again. Despite the questionable opinions of others, the raised eyebrows, the tsk-tsk-tsk they say under their breath. I know that they have never had to experience what our family has and I would never wish our burdens of this past year on even my worst enemy. I know that unless they walk a mile in my shoes, they could never understand the place I am at right now and how monstrous the mountain I had to climb to get here was. So, to those that wonder why I would drop everything and go help a child that keeps messing up–go ahead and whisper. I no longer care what you may think–it’s my responsibility to my children to help them–at any age–without enabling them. I would travel to the ends of the Earth for them. I would lay down my own life for them. It’s my duty to them to “Own Them”.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I know you are all wondering how she is and what happened to her. Out of respect for her privacy, I will not elaborate any further other than to say, “It’s bad”. She is safe, though, and being treated for the time being. She was transported to a hospital about an hour and a half away. She is struggling with the consequences of her choices and we are all praying for her. We had an opportunity to travel up to see her yesterday. It was bittersweet. It was nice knowing where she was and knowing she was getting the help she needed, but hard knowing that she will be released soon, I think. Continued prayers for her are deeply appreciated. I have given her a journal. She is also a writer. I told her to write down her experiences–the good, bad, and ugly–from her perspective. Maybe, she could help another teen and offer them encouragement that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just pray after this, she will see the light herself.

Measuring Up to be Good Enough

measuring cups

It has been quite some time since I’ve written. I am completely exhausted and anxiety ridden. I truly feel like a punching bag at the moment. I feel like I am in the fight of my life. I feel as though I have been slammed up against the wall and am being attacked from all angles. I have never cared for boxing or WWF or ultimate fighting. I tend to click quickly past those channels while I’m surfing, so, it’s ironic that I actually see myself in the ultimate fighting cage, tattered and torn, worn and weary, bruised and bloody. I don’t see myself dripping with sweat, arm raised in victory. I see myself on the floor of the ring barely able to breathe, unable to stand, eyes swollen shut, and assuming the fetal position while I’m being pummelled from all directions. Far cry from how I felt watching the Rocky video I posted in the Boob Tube many months back.

I know that those that survive or succeed at anything view themselves as winners. Positive thinking, visualization, prayer, and attitude play a huge part in a person’s overcoming anything in life. I preach it everyday to the kids in my care and my own. However, as intelligent as I am, the overwhelming feeling I have—the gut feeling that really gnaws at me constantly is something quite different. Mind over matter, right? I wish. I am really struggling to stay focused, determined, and in control. AAAHHH—there it is, again. Control. Something I have been told by many that I need to chill out about.

I have never viewed myself as a control freak. My interpretation of that is quite different than others. But, to my own chagrin, I keep hearing this in regard to my behavior when it comes to my children, my cancer, my opinions, etc. This infuriates me because only I know how out of control I feel. Only I know how easy it would be to lose it. Only I know where my head and my heart are. I have actually fought back against those that have said this to me this summer–which in their eyes–makes me appear to be more of a control freak or just the opposite and out of control (some of those individuals would be my surgeon, my oncologist, my husband, and other family members that are more interested in enabling my oldest daughter’s behavior than to actually be responsible and do the right thing when it comes to her).

This vicious circle makes me turn inward and not want to respond to anyone. If I do–rest assured–there will be a verbal onslaught of epic proportions. “I will pick my battles more carefully”–I’ve thought–and I have–things that are truly important to me. I will, however, admit that I prefer to be in control or lead things because I know that way things will get done and they will be done well. This is in terms of my business, my schooling, or the best interests of my children. I mean really–who else is going to care as much or as deeply about those things than me? I’ll also admit—I like things being done very well. In my adult life I have strived-not for perfection which is impossible—but for “very well”. For great–not just good enough. There are so many people that are happy with good enough. I’m not–It’s just the way I am.

Those that don’t do things like me love to sit back and pass judgement on how “un-very well” things are going at the moment. This is also very saddening to me–I know people love to build something up just to tear it down–its human nature and we all do it in one way or another during our lifetime. I just wish those could sit in my shoes and live just one day. I wish they all had intimate knowledge of how much that fact is killing me every day. Those that really know me know I don’t want to do anything if I can’t do it well. If I am involved in something, I want to give it my all and then some—150%–I want to be proud of my work and I want others to be proud of me. I like being recognized for a job well done. Don’t you? This aspect of my character doesn’t, in my opinion, make me someone obsessed with control because–when it comes down to it–you can’t control anything, really. So, my heart is extremely heavy because–only I know how much I have fallen short in the areas of my life that mean the most to me. To have things spiraling out of control in front of my very eyes and I am completely helpless to do anything about it to help–leaves me literally paralyzed.

Perhaps my expectations have been too high in life.

Maybe I should have settled for Good Enough.

When I try to explore why I feel this way, I try to go way back. Is this something that ultimately leads back to my childhood? Most definitely, I think. When I was growing up, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I could never measure up to whatever unattainable standards my family or my peers set forth. I wasn’t smart enough, strong enough, talented enough, pretty enough, funny enough, etc. I always tried my best, but sometimes that didn’t produce the results I wanted. I wanted to be those things mentioned earlier. I wanted to be the girl with the perfect hair. I wanted to date the most popular guy. I wanted to fit in with the jocks. I wanted to be super smart and in the National Honor Society. I wanted to be the most popular girl, the homecoming queen, the one that never had to worry about whether or not she was going to get asked to the prom. I was never those things. I was just good enough and it really drove me nuts. I should have been happy with good enough. I wasn’t, though. I wanted more. Not out of greed, but because I knew I would only get one go around in this lifetime and I wanted to make the most of it.

I was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities and although now I understand completely the importance of a musical education—at the time, it was hard to be all those things I aspired to be and still be a band geak. I fought hard against that stereotype and I do know I was well liked by many. So, I decided I needed to redefine my vision of greatness. If I couldn’t BE that girl—I was going to be liked by those girls—and as only my young mind could understand—I would become those things through association. I would become a social butterfly—bubblicious as I tell my own girls. I would make it my mission to be friendly with everyone—braniacs, jocks, nerds, emos, punks, cheerleaders, even the kids at the smoke tree (those of you from G-town know what I’m talking about). I would try to figure out where I fit in and if I had to, I would fake it.

These are things adults do as well. At my age now, it is called networking. Having friends in high places does have some benefits. If you don’t think you’re qualified for the job and you’re going to back out of the interview—go anyway and fake it. Fake that you are charming and charismatic. Fake that you are a team leader when all you’ve ever knows is to be a team player. Most importantly, dress the part. If you want to be successful—you have to act successful, behave successfully, and hang out with others who are equally successful if not more. In otherwords—fake the attitude, visualize getting the job or whatever it is you want, think positive and then close the deal. After doing this repetitively–pretty soon it becomes second nature and you aren’t faking anymore. You actually have become the things you wanted to become. I KNOW THIS! WHY CAN’T I PRACTICE IT RIGHT NOW?

Growing up is so hard and when you are dealing withal those immature emotions. It really all comes from a need to feel accepted or loved or even liked in this big world. What I found out doing this back in school was that many of the girls I wanted to be–were mean. Something I did not want to be or be associated with. They were two-faced. I began to see them not as the most beautiful, but some of the ugliest girls in the school. This discovery helped shape me and I began to accept me for who I was. I began to figure out who I was and who I wasn’t. I was able to begin to form my life long set of personal values and a belief system that still carries with me to this day. I was happier to walk as a lone wolf then to join the pack and submit to the leader. I wanted to be my own leader. In doing so, I knew that I would have noone to blame but myself if things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I was in control of my destiny (or so I thought at the time). So, my earliest memories of “control” were born during the catfights of the locker rooms and in the hallways of the schools where I was being educated.

Throughout my life, I would watch friends become controlled by drugs, or alcohol, or other demons including abusive partners. I even found myself caught in those traps for short periods of my life. Each time I fell, I blamed myself. I knew that I was stronger and could quit those vices–cold turkey–and so I would. I knew I was prettier than that hung over party girl in the mirror–and so I swore off alcohol for a good 20 years. I knew that I truly did have more control than the asshole who was beating me and I knew I had the strength to walk out–so I did. I vowed from those early years of my 20’s that I wouldn’t be controlled by anyone or any substance ever again. I have lived the way I envisioned–being in control of my life and not backing down too much to those around me that want to tear me apart. I would take life by the horns and I would attempt to hang on with a stern resolution.

Then a year like 2009 hits and my whole world and everything I ever thought to be right with me explodes. Every facet of my life has been derailed. I am no longer able to accomplish the myriad of tasks I once used to. Some days I am lucky just to breathe. In the blink of an eye, what I always did or thought or felt was changed. My life will no longer be the same as it used to. My anxiety will no longer be satisfied with a giant piece of cheesecake. My fear of the unknown has exceeded my expectations. I feel as though my ability to do things “very well” is slipping away. I feel that I am going to have to settle–for good enough. I know that change is scary. I know that without fear there is no change and without change there is no growth. I know these things. But…..

When I visualize myself riding a mechanical bull–one hand in the air in defiance or victory (however you choose to view it) and the other firmly gripping the saddle; feet firmly planted in the stirrups; and going with the rhythm despite a modicum of jerks, twists, and turns–this is how my life has been for the past 20 something years. Now, I see myself slipping off the saddle and about to be thrown into the surrounding wall. I know I will need to get back up and climb back on the saddle because really what other choice is there? Then again, is there a choice? In order to face my fears, I am going to have to deal with them head on. The problem–I’m scared to death. I can’t control any of these factors going on, in, and around me these days. I don’t want to mess up. I don’t want to try because I may not be able to do it or get through it well. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to be just good enough. I just don’t. I don’t think I have a choice, though. I liked being firmly planted. I don’t like chaos. Yet, that’s all this year has been. Chaotic. Stressful. Unpredictable.

I’m going to have to redefine, once again, who I am. Am I living up to my own expectations? Have I set those sights too high? Should I just settle for Good Enough? I feel as though I’m just stumbling through this year, though, and I just can’t seem to grasp the handle on the saddle–it’s like its greased or something. I’m going to have to fake it–that’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m just so exhausted–there’s no energy in me anymore–not like before. Then that scares me to death and I wonder if the cancer is spreading and that’s why I’m so tired. I’m also tired because I truly feel as though I have failed to accomplish all I used to. I’ve even given up in areas of my life–especially school. Part of me just can’t handle anything else. For the first time in two years straight–school was cast aside. I just let it go. I just couldn’t do it and I just didn’t think it was a priority at all and if I were ever to be questioned by a Dean or registrar about why I went two years at a 4.0GPA to giving up on my last two classes and ultimately failing–I would have to just pray they would understand. Sometimes life throws such a huge wrench in your life that it takes a crane to move it. I’m still waiting for the crane to arrive on the scene.

Knowing that I failed in whatever area of my life and for whatever reasons, though–helps fuel my inner thoughts. They help keep me chained to the cement block that has been thrown over the side of the bridge. I want to just let it go, but I can’t. I’m trying, and then the problems with my oldest daughter have manifested themselves into something that is at times suffocating to me. So, I feel as though I have failed her in some way–no matter whether I truly know I haven’t or whether everyone under the sun tells you what a great mom you are or that you did your best–I wonder–“Did I?”. I truly feel as though I was meant to lose it all this year. To some who view their glass half full–that might seem like a winning lottery ticket.

I wonder if this is my wake up call. My lottery ticket. My chance to change the things that weren’t working and fine tune them. I have a chance to throw it all away and start over. I have the chance to become the person I want to be in this stage of my life. That means I will need to peel back the layers of myself and give birth to a whole new me. I know that in order to be the person I want to become I must throw away the parts that aren’t working–well–or at all–and maybe entirely. I don’t know how to do it. I’m trying to figure it out. I am a chaotic soul at the moment. I’m trying to measure up to my own standards and I’m not sure if those standards are even applicable in this stage of the game anymore. I’m trying to lose control and that’s the scariest thing I have ever had to do. Imagine a young child in a temper tantrum trying to stay her ground and while mom is dragging her in from playing in the dirt by her wrist–that oppositionally defiant child with a halo of golden tangles has dug her heels in and won’t give in without a good fight. That’s me and as much as I don’t want to go in to take a bath–I’m going to have to succumb at some point. Things are never going to be how they used to. Change is on the horizon and through that change I will strive to be good enough.

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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