Have Courage.

 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
 – Eleanor Roosevelt

 Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
 – Neale Donald Walsch

 

Comfort zone.

As much as I believe the term has been overused, it is an easily understood concept. We do what we do out of habit and out of a love of routine. Just like when we nestle into our warm beds, once we’ve set ourselves up in a comfy spot, mentally or physically, we are loath to change. It doesn’t really matter if our zone is actually, truly comfortable; as long as it is familiar, we are more likely to stick with it than choose the alternative. Even when the alternative is better, we often find ourselves mired in the wheel-ruts of our routines. Why?

I’ve asked myself this question many times over the years and with increased intensity since WLS became part of my life. Why do I continue to hold the negative thought processes and perspectives that landed me here? Why is it so hard for me to embrace a more positive self-image? Why am I unable to let go of my old self?

What am I afraid of?

I have to believe that many of you are also struggling with embracing the change and leaving the old you behind with all its associated beliefs and baggage. It’s why we can’t let go of the past. It’s why we still have closets full of clothes that don’t fit and pantries full of food we don’t eat. It’s why we brush off compliments but take every slight to heart. It’s why we take tentative steps forward, all the while looking behind. It’s why we let the opinions of others dictate how we feel about ourselves. What if we fail? What if this new thing doesn’t work out? If you listen, you can already hear the ‘I told you so’ chorus warming up.

I am motivated, in large part, by fear. Fear is an unwieldy and unwelcome part of my life. I’d like to say I’m getting better at dealing with that part of my psyche, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that I have made it into a big, scary monster that either keeps me from doing certain things or compels me to do them. I’m afraid of the dark, so I leave lights on unnecessarily. I’m afraid of what other people think, so I don’t always say what’s on my mind.

What are you afraid of? Ridicule. Embarrassment. Being misunderstood. Failure. Risk. Success. Revealing yourself. Loss. Not being good enough. Commitment. Rejection. Missing out. Death. Action. Inaction. Change.

Real or perceived, fears can easily control us.

Fear can give me a ton of reasons to do something, and it also gives me a ton of excuses not to. It’s been very prosperous in my life; I’ve allowed it unrestricted access to my decisions, my self-image, my language, and my activities. I’ve deferred to it and allowed it to be my default position, whether I realize it or not.

As a result, I haven’t challenged myself much. It’s much easier this way, you know: if I do what I’ve always done, I’ll continue to get the results I’ve always had, and there won’t be any doubt or uncertainty about it. I can coast right along.

Right?

Well, if I am to be honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I like challenges. I like them because they offer me the opportunity to achieve, to learn, and to overcome. Challenges, by their very nature, are confrontational; they defiantly stand in front of you with arms crossed as if to say, “So what?” Challenges dare you to act; dare you to upset the status quo; dare you to prove them wrong.

In January of last year, I viewed starting a blog as a challenge, so I braved the naysayer in my head and met it head on. It may be too early to tell, but I think it was a good decision. Blogging has been good therapy for me in many ways, but it hasn’t healed my grief or solved my problems; rather, it has brought those things front and center for me to deal with. It has made me recognize and appreciate the flaws and frailties that make me who I am. Writing has helped my comfort zone expand, and as it has grown, so have I. I highly recommend it.

Losing weight and changing myself has been an even bigger challenge. It has dared me to rethink everything about my life and my choices. It’s teaching me things I never knew and giving me strength. I’m coloring outside the lines now.

As I live my post-op life, challenges arise on a regular basis. I admit I haven’t taken up all of the gauntlets thrown at my feet; some will have to wait until I feel a bit more confident. But each one I do accept makes me that much happier and secure in myself.

I’m slowly coming to the realization that allowing for what other people think should not be a platform of my personal development. In some ways, that position reflects how I felt through my grief – what is right for you is not what’s right for him, or her, or me. I can’t live my life in fear of the judgment of others. Chances are, they care far less than I give them credit for, anyway.

I’m 50 years old, but in some ways I feel like I’ve just started living.

 

 photo credit Garry Wilmore

A Damned Stupid, Blubbering Mess.

open journal

Excerpts from the first year.

************************

19 Oct 8:45pm. 
Saw the therapist today.  I hope this is all normal.  Sometimes I feel I’m going crazy.  She tells me I’m not.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ll ever get through this.

20 Oct 9:30pm.
I wonder what my husband thinks?  I don’t want to bore him – if he asks me how I am, I guess I’m just the same.  Every day.  Nothing changes.  Will my marriage survive?  Will I?  He’s got to be tired of this.  I am.  And my kids probably wonder who I am anymore –  certainly not the Mommy they used to know.

22 Oct 10:10pm.
I always seem to do this before bed, don’t I?  What a nice way to go to sleep.  But it’s the only time I have to myself – and since I’m always thinking of it anyhow, I guess bedtime’s as good as any.  Any quiet time for me is painful.  Sometimes noise is easier – but I frustrate so easily now – I’m a real shrew.

25 Oct 9:15pm.
Going to bed early tonight.  Hope it helps.  I’m always so tired.  The therapist says grieving is hard work and wears you out.  I agree.  I could stay in bed all day most of the time if I had the chance.
Mom, I can hardly stand it without you.
Dad, I miss you so much — I try to hear your voice in my head so I don’t forget what it sounds like.  I am so terrified that I will.
Wendy, it feels so awful to lose you — you were so young and full of life — I wanted you to grow old with me and still be shuffling in the kitchen and ‘popping’ your cheek.

27 Oct Weds pm.
I didn’t work today.  Guess I tripped and fell.  I’m a mess.  A damned stupid, blubbering mess.  I’m so tired.  Maybe I’m coming down with something.  Isn’t it funny that my pen from the funeral chapel fits so nicely in my journal?  Why is that funny? Boy, if someone reads this someday they’ll probably have me committed.

********************

It feels strange reading these pages again.  Almost voyeuristic.  Can I be a voyeur of myself?

It’s All About Me.

5/1/13  Daily Prompt: Personal Space
To what extent is your blog a place for your own self-expression and creativity vs. a site designed to attract readers? How do you balance that? If sticking to certain topics and types of posts meant your readership would triple, would you do it?

When I started to blog, I wasn’t sure what direction it would take me.  Four months into it, I have a better idea, but that’s not set in stone.  I love connecting with the world this way, and I love that there are folks out there who are interested in what I have to say, but this is not a gimmicky site.  That is to say, I don’t see myself grooming this blog for more traffic; at least, not to a large extent.

If I find that some of my topics are more popular than others, I can write more on those, but I don’t intend to sacrifice the character of my blog to get more readers.  I don’t want to emulate anyone; I just want to be me, and you can decide whether you like me or not.  That said, I hope you do. 😉

photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

The Technical Writer

Neck-deep in the workaday words
of engineer argot
and industry,
Practically drowning in practicality,

I feel a flutter
of gypsy-colored heartsong;
Carefree, it does not belong
with crisp and careful language.

I welcome the diversion
of sweet, emotional perfumery;
Then, with a sigh, return
to the task at hand,

One pithy paragraph at a time.

4/30/13

photo credit Bitman

 

The Grief Journal

journal60

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~ William Shakespeare

 

I found my grief journal the other day.

You would not think much of it if you saw it: a nondescript brown book with a small illustration on the cover. It is not very big, but it holds a whole lot of me.

When I bought the book in happier times, its intended use was journaling, which is exactly like blogging, only different. 😉  I never got around to using it that way, and it sat, unopened, for a long time.

In a rare moment of lucidity during my worst times, I decided that I should find the book and use it. I eyed it warily for a long while, not sure if I was really ready to put pen to paper. It seemed like more of a commitment than I could handle. My head was so messed up that I was not sure what to do from one day to the next.

It was difficult at first to write what I felt. I never had had trouble doing that before, but this time was different. I tried to reserve for myself a few moments before I went to sleep to jot down the day’s events and feelings. I thought that would be sufficient. I did not expect entries to ramble for several pages, and I did not anticipate struggling to express myself, but both were common.

Sometimes I would skip weeks at a time because what I was feeling was the same — every hour, every day, every week. Why write it down?

‘Today I was miserable. Again. Cried. Again. I hate my life. Still.’

Other times, I filled the pages with my dreams and nightmares. I wrote about family dynamics and how they changed; I wrote about how I felt like an observer in my own life; I wrote about how helpless and hopeless I felt.

I also wrote about Mr. Stuck and about how his love and support kept me afloat when I was sure I was drowning. I wrote about how grateful I was to him for standing by me in the worst of times. I wrote that if I could get through this – if we could get through this – nothing could tear us apart. I know not everyone has someone like him in their lives, and that is a shame, because he was the one who kept me from stepping off into that abyss. I would not be where I am today without him.

Reading that journal brings many hard memories back. It is difficult to read both in content and because my handwriting is very sloppy in spots. I can only read so much before I need to do something else.

I have wanted to burn that book many times over the years, but I am glad I never did. It gives insight to my journey. It also fills in some of the blanks of my memory. I never finished filling the pages; I kept the journal for several months and then abandoned it. In a way, I wish I had continued. I think I stopped because I was in counseling and I had a safe place to open up.

I will post some excerpts in the future to help illustrate my thought processes back then. A grief journal is a good thing for many people; it sure was for me. There is therapy in being able to form your thoughts and feelings into some kind of narrative.  Like they say, the first step in fixing a problem is identifying it.  At first, it was hard to find my way.  I could not put words to what was in my head and my heart.  Being able to do that was progress for me; it meant that I could name it and own it.

I see plenty of blogs out there that read like a grief journal does, and I am glad that those bloggers can use this medium to help themselves heal.  A blog is so much more public than a little book tucked into a nightstand; but it brings with it a community of people who commiserate with you and help you along.  Everyone has his own story of loss, of pain, of struggle.

With a grief journal, you do not know about everyone else out there who has walked through the fire; with a blog, you can reach them.

Million-Dollar Question: Why Do I Blog?

A blog and a handfull of quarters will get you a cup of coffee.

Daily Prompt: Million-Dollar Question  — Why do you blog? 

I’ve read a lot of bloggers’ answers to this question, and they range from ‘I can’t not write’ to educating the public on a certain topic, to therapy.  All in all, a wide range of good, valid reasons.

Since I’m fairly new to the blogosphere, I don’t know if I really have a direct, complete answer.  I think my answer is, “I’m still finding out.”  I started Stuck On Zero at the urging of a friend who thought I had a voice that needed to be heard.  I’m thankful for that encouragement.

Like most of the bloggers I’ve seen so far, I’ve been writing since I was young, and I have entertained thoughts of novels and poetry and short-story compilations.  I have dreamed of seeing my name on the spine of a book.  People tell me, and I believe, that I have a gift.  I want to share it with you.

But really, I don’t write for you.  I write for me.  I like the sound of my own voice — my own writing style.  I like choosing the perfect word or polishing a phrase for perfect nuance.  I’m peevish and moody and emotional, and I like doing this because it’s my words, my phrases, my emotions, my self.  Like it or not, in this case it is all about me.  I’ll never get rich, but I may make some friends.  And I’ll say what I think and write what I feel, and it will give me satisfaction.

 photo credit DonkeyHotey