To Everything There is a Season–PART 1

SEEING RED

Written on 5/8/11

(flashback)

Summer ’09 was the worst summer of my life—to date. The diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ and subsequent mastectomy had left me angry at the world and seriously depressed. So much, in fact, that it was all I could do to get through my days with all the children in care and then shut the world out when the last child left each evening. I tried to make the most of moments when they would come my way, but I can say, matter-of-factly, that I was not someone you’d want to socialize with that year. Bitter resentment along with despair were the facial expressions of choice. I didn’t want to hear words of encouragement. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to find the humor in things (although I tried hard to each day and it just came out biting, sarcastic, and crass sounding). I didn’t want to do anything but cry, or scream, or punch something or someone. I had to hold it all in, though. I had to maintain so I could just get through each day and holding it in just made me an even hotter mess. If you were to ask me now if I ever exhaled that summer, I would honestly tell you no.

I know NOW that was the most unhealthy way I could have lived. Hell, I knew it then, too, but chose to ignore the signs–Defeat-est mentality at its finest and those of you who know the Type A that I am probably can’t ever imagine me getting that low. But that Type A began working overtime on my self-destruction. For example,

Why should I worry about my grades anymore– is God really gonna care that I was on the President’s List or made it into the National Honor Society?

Why should I bother turning in any paperwork for any agencies I’m accountable to for my business, like they really give a damn what I’m fighting here anyway.

Why should I bother fighting for my oldest daughter, after all, so many others had given up on her.

Why should I care what I look like, I’m just gonna lose my hair anyway… I’m just gonna look ridiculous wearing makeup…I’m just gonna have to find shirts covered with such loud prints that it will distract anyone from noticing I don’t have a chest anymore…

Why should I bother with anything…I’m just gonna be 6 feet under by the end of the year.

Why should I bother with reconstruction—I’ll finally get the boob job I always wanted just to have the best looking chest standing at attention from my coffin as everyone passes it by during the visitation.

I was feeding the beast inside me by continuing such inner destructive self-talk. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t get out of the quick sand that kept pulling me back into that pit of despair. Each time a friend would throw me a lifeline, I’d only hang on half-heartedly. I was giving up–giving in. It was all too much. I didn’t know how to process all of the stimuli attacking me. It was just easier to retreat into a comfortable cocoon of anger. I was prescribed medication after medication from anti-depressants, to anti-anxiety, to sleeping pills so I could just shut off my brain at night–all of them addictive. At least I had enough sense about me to avoid filling any of those Rx’s. My doctor wasn’t happy about that. I argued that–I drive children to schools and I won’t drive under the influence of something. I won’t take something that would make me feel loopy or jittery. I won’t take something I would only later have to fight to get off of. I knew that it was up to me to pull myself out. I just didn’t have a clue how I would go about doing that.

I know there are some women that handle such extreme stress with grace. I wish I could say I was one of them. There were times—fleeting nanoseconds that would allow me the courage to hold my head up high as I walked into a room, but they vanished as quickly as they appeared. I’ll give you a glimpse back at who I was that summer. It’s written all over my face and my body language screams, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT—HAVEN’T YOU EVER SEEN SOMEONE WITH ONE boob!.” Yes, for me to bring about a change…it would probably take more courage then for me to walk into a hospital and have my chest cut off–and since that had already happened, the fight was only just beginning. Not a physical one, though—a purely mental knock-down, drag out fight that Mr. Miagi wouldn’t be able to help me get out of.

As you can see, I had truly succumbed to the anger. It overrode most of my emotions. It had itself manifested into a type of cancer that was once again invading every area of my life. The problem was that I breathed life into this type and it was by far Stage 10. By summer, it had become a comfortable friend. Letting go of the anger would have been just too easy. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be ready. I held tight to it and slammed the door on anyone trying to get in including my family. There were times when I I would look out that door’s peephole to view the world that was still going on without me. That made me angrier, still!

Then there was the crippling events surrounding my oldest daughter who had gone missing. We were dealing with the loss of a child we weren’t sure was even alive or dead at this point, and I was going through the painstaking process of supplying dental records to the police in case remains were found. The stress of just the cancer would have been enough to anyone but combine it with the stress of losing a child and the infuriating lack of help I received in trying to find her along with the judgmental advice I was getting at all turns was enough to push me into a spiraling depression. “No…I’ll hold onto this anger just a while longer,” I thought.

As if things weren’t bad enough… I was told once again our family would be losing insurance. My husband’s job of 17 yrs. was coming to an explosive brink. The business was trying to function with a severely alcoholic boss. My husband was the only one keeping it afloat. The boss was his childhood and lifelong friend, best man in our wedding, and Godfather to our oldest daughter. If you have ever dealt with alcoholism, you may be able to appreciate the horrific strain it can put on relationships. So, as I dealt with my cancer, Jeff dealt with his friend/boss/job and the fact he knew he was losing all three to a self-destructive personality who had also begun an affair with my former best friend of 17 years and maid of honor in our wedding. It was all too much.

Then, the insurance—this bastard—this corporate structure we had paid money into our whole lives decides to begin cutting our benefits and raising our premiums. It began a vicious cycle where the teasing thought of a couple more months worth of benefits dangled in front of me like carrots–causing complete panic on my part–how will I get the rest of my surgeries?  How will I pay for medicine?  What if this metastasizes and I can’t pay for treatment?  What do I do?  I braced for the worst–complete denial altogether once Jeff had been fired from his job. Denial in mid-treatment. What kind of insurance company does this? Mind you, this was before Obama’s healthcare reform where pre-existing conditions would be grandfathered in (or so I thought at the time).  I realized I better get a game plan…and fast.

With all that, my mental state really started nose diving. I was becoming scatterbrained–unable to focus–very attention deficit disorder–without a doubt. The strain on our marriage, our family, our lives had become nothing short of catastrophic. No amount of counseling could help. There was no way to sort it all out. Prayers were offered up just to get drowned out by the yelling—whether my own or a chorus of frustrated cries by everyone under the same roof. I stopped writing because I could no longer process any stimuli coming in or going out.

In the midst of it all, I began having a recurring dream. It continued every night for 6 months straight. I began to realize it was a sign…and once that sign revealed itself and what it meant to my life…it was the catalyst for all things that followed…

SEASONS PART 2 will be posted on Monday morning 5/23/11. Don’t miss what the dream reveals! You can do that by subscribing to this blog through RSS feeds, the subscribe by email feature, or the Networked Blogs link in the side bar (the easiest way)!  Cya soon!

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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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