Voices in My Head.

 

Dad says, Don’t get overconfident.

Mom says, You’re too smart for your own good.

Grade school me says, Why are they so mean to me?

Middle school me says, I’ll never be one of them.  I hate myself.

High school me says, I wish I was beautiful and popular instead of dorky.

College me says, You’re a dropout.  You can’t finish anything you start.

Mom me says, I wish I had been a better mom.  I have so many regrets.

Conscience says, Follow the rules.

The child says, It’s too hard.  I don’t want to do it anymore.

Work me says, I hope I don’t screw up.

Fat Girl says, You’ll never be good enough.  You’ll always be fat.

Orphan says, I wonder if they’re proud of me.

Insomniac me says, I feel like a fake.  What if they find out what I really am?

Wife me says, I’m not who I used to be.

The mirror says, I look and sound like my mother.  I’m getting old.

 

Optimist me says,

“Keep your head up. You can do it. It gets easier. Don’t listen to them.”

 

 

image credit frankieleon

A Little Bit Blue.

Funny thing about grief: it finds its own way.

It barges in sometimes, an unwanted, boorish intruder with a booming voice and bad body odor, and forces you into a confrontation. You’ve barred the door and closed the curtains and turned off the porch light, but that doesn’t matter. It’s here, and it WILL BE HEARD.

I was minding my own business this weekend, trying to find my desk under all of the stacks of mail and paper, when I found it.  The Book.  It’s a nondescript hardcover, coffee-table sized, with writing on the spine and section dividers.  It is the book that was prepared by my family’s law firm to provide personal portraits of my mother, father, and sister to people who never knew them.  It was intended to show them as special people who were loved, who were important, and who are deeply missed.  It does a pretty good job of it.  There are photographs, excerpts from our depositions and testimonial letters from family and friends.  It touches on highlights of their lives and then devotes the end of the text to their sudden deaths.

I had brought it down from the shelf a few months ago when Number Young Son had some questions about the train crash.  Having been so young at the time, neither of the boys have read the newspaper articles or seen this book.  Their knowledge of the crash has come from me and their dad. I hoped that maybe the book could fill in some of the holes and answer some of their questions.

Of course I had to open it.  I just thumbed through it, pausing to read a few lines here and there.  The tears welled up and spilled, and my throat was tight, but it was more of a release than anything else.  Reading those heartfelt words about my Pa, my Momma and my goofy sister made me cry good tears.  But even those tears just drip into the void.

I’ve done that ‘grief work.’  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy — it’s not. It’s horrible, brutal, cruel, painful, exhausting, punishing work.  It’s as tiring as hard physical labor. It drains every last bit of energy, spirit, ambition, and hope right out of you. It robs you; it takes you down to the raw nubs of your most naked inner self and leaves you with nothing.  I have spent way too much time there, thanks.  No need to go back.  These days, I have a sort of inner governor that kicks in when the going gets rough – it keeps me from the deep end of that drowning pool.

But that is not to say that I don’t mourn.  Believe me, I miss my parents with every cell in my body.  I miss my sister the same way.  I ache for their voices and yearn to be wrapped in their hugs. But fifteen years after the fact, the jagged edges have been worn smooth.  The peaks and valleys are there and the road is still bumpy in spots, but I’m no longer picking splinters out of my heart.  My sadness is a still, deep well.

So when I saw an item shared on my Facebook feed, a link to a post entitled Mourning My Mom, Before and After Facebook, I had to read it.  The author talked about how different it might have been had Facebook been around when her mother passed away in 2002.  I won’t summarize it here — you can read for yourself — but she made some great points and made me think about how we mourn and how people offer comfort.

I could write at length about my grief and mourning.  I could, but I can’t.  I can’t, because I still have some kind of block that prevents me, like that governor inside, from taking it too far. Self-preservation, I suppose. But that can be so frustrating, when I know that each time I write about it, talk about it, and read about it, it gets a little easier for me.  I really want to scream and holler and throw things and Get It All Out. Then I would feel so much better, right?

That’s a myth, though.  A pipe dream.  I could never get it all out.  It’s part of me now, and it’s changed me.

In the article, the author says, But grief is illogical. It never feels resolved.  She’s right about that.  I want to spit every time I hear someone use the term ‘closure.’  Like you can close the door on that part of your life, and it’s done.  Pfft.  Maybe there are people who can, but I haven’t met one.  I can’t close that door because there’s a big boot stuck in it.  Grief, that paragon of perfect timing, is not about to be shut behind that door.  It is going to show up unannounced and unwelcome, for the rest of my life.  When you least expect it, expect it.

I’m no expert.  I’m not here to tell anyone how it’s done.  I’m not here to wear my loss like a medal or trot it out as a trump card at the pity party.  It’s fact, and it’s my life.  Even my siblings, who had the same loss I had, don’t experience the same mourning in the same way.  I don’t want to carry it around as an excuse for what I do or don’t do.  In reality, it’s there; sometimes I spend time thinking about it, but most times I don’t.  When it was new and fresh and ugly, there was a part of me that wanted everyone to know, so they could understand the person pretending to be me.  I wanted justification.  I wanted reasons.  I wanted something.  Anything.

So I guess this is rather a pointless post.  I’m blue now, but it won’t last forever. I’ll pause and reflect and savor warm memories of the way Momma pushed up her glasses and how she answered the phone in her sing-song voice; how my Pa would perch on the stool in the dining room, peeling apples for the pies she made; and the taste of Wendy’s World-Famous Potato Salad.  I’ll wipe some tears and bite my lip.  I’ll think about what could have been.  I’ll wish I could wake up from this bad dream that’s lasted fifteen years.

And then I’ll be thankful to be as far down this road as I am, and I’ll pray I don’t have to walk that stretch again.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

photo credit perfect_hexagon

Skirting the Issues.

The things we hate about ourselves aren’t more real than things we like about ourselves.
– Ellen Goodman

To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.
– Sandra Bierig

 

So I wore a skirt to work today. 

This is significant because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did that.  I have worked in an office environment for many years, but my go-to office wear has always been jeans and a sweater.  My rule of thumb was concealment: the baggier something was, the more I could hide beneath it.  Plus, if I gained weight, the clothes would still fit – up to a point, of course.  I stayed away from anything that was form-fitting.  Nothing fit properly, anyway. 

But now that I am losing weight, my body shape is changing, and I’m starting to look differently at myself.  I want to change the dowdy self-image I’ve had and replace it with a more stylish, confident version of myself.  I want my inside to match my outside.  So I’ve been trying to be more open to colors and styles I would never have chosen for myself in the past.  I imagine my sister Missy perched on my shoulder, encouraging me.  She always had a good eye for what would look good on me and was behind many of the most-complimented outfits I’ve ever worn.  I know she would have loved to help dress me now.

Shopping has always been uncomfortable, almost torturous, for me, but it’s a necessary evil.  I’m digging around in thrift stores and wearing friends’ hand-me-downs while my body shrinks.  I have shopped so long in the plus-size racks that I automatically go there; it isn’t until I’ve pushed a few hangers around that I realize I’m in the wrong spot.  But these smaller sizes throw me for a loop – I am convinced they won’t fit. 

Case in point: my friend just gave me some clothes; among them was a pair of jeans two sizes smaller than what I’d been wearing.  A few days later, she asked if I’d tried them on.  I admitted I hadn’t, because I wasn’t down to that size yet.  She assured me that yes, they’d fit — plus, they were stretchy.  So I agreed to try them on.  That night, I held the jeans in front of me.  The waist looked impossibly small and the legs looked way too narrow for my thighs.  They would never fit

Here goes nothing. 

As you may have guessed, they fit.  Perfectly.  I could not believe it!  I showed Mr. Stuck, and he told me they looked great and fit me well.  How can that be?  There is such a disconnect between what my brain sees and what is reality.  I can see that I have a long way to go before my thinking reflects the real me. 

Because I know that my brain still sees me at my largest and most unattractive, I must consciously battle against that perception.  I have to challenge myself.  What does this have to do with wearing a skirt today?  Plenty.  I rarely wear skirts because 1) I hate pantyhose, and 2) I hate my legs.  But I told myself that when I’m at the thrift store, if I see something I think is attractive, I will consider it, even if I’m sure it’s still too small for me…even if it’s a skirt or a dress.  (My favorite thing about thrift stores is buying six items for what one would cost in a normal department store.)  I now have a handful of skirts and dresses I’m willing to try.  Not all at once, though.  I’m still a tomboy at heart.

Baby steps.

But for all my good intent, it still took some mental persuasion to talk myself into wearing a skirt to work.  The mental negativity started: So much for fading into the background.  Who are you trying to impress?  A skirt?  You?  With those legs?  At least you’re behind a desk all day.  I told Mr. Stuck that I was thinking about wearing a skirt to work, and he was all for it.  It’s a long skirt, so I didn’t have to worry about my legs showing or about wearing pantyhose (yay!); but it also doesn’t have pockets (boo!).   That was nearly a deal breaker – I normally carry a wallet, not a purse.  I’d have to carry a purse if I wanted to wear a skirt.  Sigh.  Okay.  I dug out an old purse, dusted it off, and put my wallet and keys inside.  No excuses left.

This morning I pulled on the casual, navy skirt and light blue sweater.  I turned and looked at myself sideways in the mirror.  The skirt really accentuated my slimmer figure.  This time, instead of automatically voicing the negative, I chose to admire how I looked. 

Wow. Look how far I’ve come.

I put a smile on my face, squared my shoulders, grabbed my purse and walked out the door.

 

 

photo credit Orin Zebest

Happy New Year!

Happy Blog birthday to me (tomorrow) — I’ve managed to stick with this a year now.  But that’s not what this post is for. It’s to thank you, my readers and commenters, for making it a great first year for my blog, and to wish you all a wonderful 2014.

I have high hopes for the new year; with our health improvements, the Mister and I should be feeling great and full of energy, ready to tackle anything.  I am feeling very positive about myself and my circle of family and friends.  I am ready to return to work refreshed and recharged after my three weeks at home.

Resolutions?  Nah.  My psychotherapist friend Bobbi just wrote an excellent post for PsychCentral in which she discussed how resolutions set you up to fail: Break Your Resolutions: Bounce Back – Develop Your Resiliency.  I agree wholeheartedly with her idea to ‘break things down to make them simpler.’  I love how she lays it out; it makes sense.  Set yourself up for success, not failure!

That is how I intend to approach my 2014.  No great, sweeping announcements.  Just a private pledge to do better.  I intend to write here more often.  I intend to get moving more by using the stairs and parking farther away.  I intend to clean out the clutter in my house and in my head, and focus on what is important to me.

And I intend to celebrate my 50th birthday with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude.

I’m glad to be where I am.  I am thankful for the life I am given, the health that is being restored to me (yay for my earglasses!), and the opportunity to make a difference – somehow, somewhere.  I am grateful to have a good job, a family who loves me no matter what, and a place to come home to every day.  I’m thankful for the support and encouragement I receive on a daily basis, from each one of you who reads my blog, to my friends, old and new, to my terrific family.

Life is good.  Remember that.  Ring in the new year however you choose, but please don’t take the chance of drinking and driving or riding with someone who does.  Life is precious!

Let the celebrations begin!!  Happy 2014!!!

Becky

 

photo credits: tacit requiem (joanneQEscober) and JD Hancock

More Unintended Consequences.

harvest moon

As you might have guessed, I’ve been very happy with my hearing devices and the world they’ve opened up to me.  It’s been an adventure on so many levels.  However, unintended consequences have revealed themselves, too.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love music and my iPod.  I work best when I have music in the background, which, unfortunately, is not often possible for me at work unless I wear earphones.  That presents the first problem: my ears are scarcely big enough to accommodate both an ear bud and a hearing device, so sometimes I have to choose.  Same with the Bluetooth headset: either I can remove the device and just wear the earpiece, or I can try to put them both in and hope for the best.

The next, and by far the biggest, byproduct of my newly-improved hearing is the constant and annoying onslaught of noises I never heard before.  Sometimes my life sounds more like a battlefield, a nightclub, or the trading floor of the NYSE – seriously.  Everything makes noise, I swear!  Who knew?

It may seem ironic that while I have serious hearing loss, I also have extreme, sometimes excruciating sensitivity to certain environmental sounds.  I clutch my head in distress while noise rattles and echoes inside it.  I can hear people now, and that makes me wonder if their very (gum-chewing, pen-clicking, coughing, yawning, sniffling, eating, throat-clearing, typing, knuckle-cracking, nail-clipping) existence is designed to drive me insane.  Admittedly, it’s not a long trip, but still… The Lord teaches us patience by putting irritants in our paths; witness the pearl.  Ladies and gents, I am no pearl.  But I’m working on it.  Ahem.

I don’t like to complain; hearing is precious, especially to those of us who need devices, and I am grateful for my hearing aids.  But living with hearing loss lulled me into complacency; I didn’t hear a lot of the bustle and clatter of everyday life.  It was easier to tune out the world when I couldn’t hear it very well.  I spent a lot of time lost in my own thoughts.  When I got my hearing aids, I felt like Dorothy opening the door and stepping from black and white into Technicolor.  All of a sudden, things were clearer and brighter (and louder), and now I was lost in the cacophony.  Clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!

 

Sometimes I’d like to go back.  There are times when I so crave peace and quiet that I remove the miracle devices from my ears and I can almost feel my blood pressure sink.  The racket symphony of life drops to pianissimo; voices slip back to the murky depths, and I can once again pretend that I’m Dorothy, back in Kansas: it may be dull, but at least they know me there.