But, what are you missing?

So about a week ago, I issued a challenge of sorts. You were dared to do a little investigative soul searching. I dared you to find something that would feed your spirit and then immerse yourself in it. I hope you tried something new and I hope you enjoyed yourself. Maybe even found out something new about yourself.

I took the challenge myself and thanks to a good friend’s lead I decided to uninstall the Facebook app from my phone.  I found myself aimlessly scrolling…liking this or that and maybe commenting on something here and there.  But before I knew it I had spent 15-20 minutes doing this aimless scrolling.  Huh…what the heck, what an incredible waste of time.  I decided that I was going to give it a try and pulled the Facebook mobile plug 2 days ago and I’m so happy I did it.

Now I find myself reaching for my phone and thinking that I really don’t need it for anything. It’s so eye-opening to see how much I’ve been wrapped up in the routine of social media. I’ve also edited the notification settings on the other social media outlets I use so that I will only engage with those when I feel like I want to, not when the little birdie pops up in my notifications screen.

It’s so hard to believe that a week ago I couldn’t imagine possibly missing something on social media and now I’m already excited about only connecting with social media on my terms.  I’m excited to see what other “time sucks” I’m able to eliminate in the coming weeks! This is exciting stuff, people, exciting stuff!!

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Always a Survivor

Living with chronic pain feels less like living some days than it feels like dying. It can be such a defeating reality. Today was one of those days. My first thought as I woke up was, “Uh oh…SHIT! The pain is going to win today!” I dialed back my defeatist attitude long enough to do some yoga to stretch out the most painful spots and some meditation to try and get my brain around some calm. I tried, I really did. But today Fibro won.

What is so difficult for people who don’t suffer with chronic pain to understand is that it’s not just physical pain. It is a deep-seeded pain that radiates from inside. The intricately woven fabric of our being has such a delicate strength but like everything else, it has a breaking point. What I’ve come to realize about chronic pain, mine specifically, is that it is a perfect storm of toxicity. I believe that my Fibromyalgia onset came from years of abuse externally and internally. It became the only way I knew how to function. At some point in my youth, I stopped being the creative dreamer I was born to be and just started surviving. That routine behavior poured out into my adult years and the fear of life and the people I would find within it engulfed me. I was living my life in fear, by fear and because of fear. But, I was still here and it hadn’t won but it was killing me. The ways I was coping with the fear and the continued internal and external abuse were also killing me. The realization that I had only been surviving and not really living was incredibly liberating and scary. I didn’t act on it right away because I wasn’t ready to do any work to improve my situation. But I had a path I could travel whenever I chose to start traveling it. I knew it was there and I found comfort in knowing that there was something better than where I was, I just didn’t know when I would have the strength to take that step.

It took hitting rock bottom before the real healing began on November 29th, 2011. The day I got sober, the day I took the first step. I decided that I’d had enough. This wasn’t working and I needed to try something new. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I’ve never been one to take the easy way, even if it’s guaranteed. There is still so much healing to be done and there are days where my internal “perfect storm” gets the best of me. Today, having a support system of fellow survivors has been key in keeping me from taking more than a step or two in the wrong direction. Knowing that today is just a bad day and I need to be present in whatever that is is difficult and challenges the “fixer” in me to not feel as though I’ve failed. Instead, I am learning to understand that all of the toxicity will need to find a way out before it is all said and done regardless of the positives yesterday brought. I just happened to have a bad dream that kept me from sleeping well the rest of the night last night, and the weather provided the right amount of pain to whip up a flare for me today. I am not responsible for the unpredictability of this chronic pain I am surviving, but I am responsible to be present in the pain and heal the parts I do have control over.

So, today I will continue to sit here and celebrate my wins and feel all the feels that will make me cry in whatever waves they come at me. I owe it to myself. I owe it to the creative dreamer who is trying to find her way back home. I will take this unpredictable day and use it to advance my healing so that one day, I can say that I used to suffer from Fibromyalgia, but I survived it!!

Do it! I dare you!

There really is no excuse to stay stuck where you are.  If you can learn a new password every six weeks or aimlessly scroll away on an electronic device, you can learn new things.  We learn new things all the time. The question is what are you stuffing your cranium with?  Is it tangible? Can you do good with it or make positive out of it? Let go of the useless garbage. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all today. Shit, I’m not an animal! Just a little bit today, and put something new in its place. Something that will feed your brain or your soul. Or BOTH! Do it! I dare you!

Behavior you don’t currently do on a regular basis is foreign and uncomfortable. I don’t care. Try something new. If you like it or you find it interests you, then keep doing it. It gets easier and opens as many doors as you’ll let it. You may find a hobby or a passion or a tool to help you live out your dreams yet unrealized. Do it! I dare you!

Change is hard and takes work, but in the end it’s all worth it. It all starts with deciding you want something different.  You don’t even have to know what that is right now.  Just something new and something better. Push your creativity right up to the edge of the world and find a comfortable spot to hang out in for a while. A place where you can learn something new until you find something new to learn! Do it! I dare you!

Just be Happy Here

I’m typically so careful what I say about living with Fibromyalgia, for more than one reason, but most recently I’m trying to wrap my head around why I judge myself more than anyone else. I’ve started accepting networking opportunities where I can connect with people who understand exactly what I experience on a daily basis, and most times first hand. It has made me take a long hard look at myself. Why is reaching out so difficult? What do I expect from myself? From others? How and why did this even happen to me?

I decided to look at when it all seemed to blow up. What the time frame was and what was happening in my world at the time. There was a lot! I’d already spent years raising my son solo and with some assistance from my dad financially. I moved us here from Cali in ’98 and even at that age he was so full of anger. I blame myself. Even after all I know about who he really is today, I blame myself. I was always striving for something better for us. A house we could call home, a yard for him to play in and neighbor kids for him to grow up with. I have awesome memories of hiking with my bro and sometimes his friends too when I was a kid. *wintertime, trying to break the ice shelves at the creek that ran through the park* *summertime, playing at the park that had the spaceship* *running through the woods and climbing trees just before dusk* I wanted that for my boy. He wanted to be angry. A type of anger where you could see him disappear behind his eyes. He would go to another place and his anger would be all that was left. He was strong, like superhero strong, and he would kick me and throw things at me. Furniture, toys, tools, books…furniture. I was afraid. Every day, I was afraid. I feared that he would seriously hurt me, himself or someone else. There were police visits to the first grade school he attended, he was suspended 8 times between kindergarten and first grade. He was arrested at 12 for hitting the neighbors friend in the kneecap with a golf club. He was angry and I was alone. Alone with the anger that I just couldn’t reach. When he would go into his anger I would miss him. He has a charisma that is contagious. He is hilariously sarcastic and articulate. When he is happy, he is poetry. But he was mostly angry and I searched for answers. For years and years, I searched for answers. Was there therapy that could help him control the rage inside? Was there medication that could ease his anxiety? I hurt for him then as I hurt for him now. How terrifying it must be for him. To go away and not know where you went, a trip with no memorable documentation, good or bad. As I blend the past and present with my pen, I realize that it happens effortlessly because the journey never really changed. Fight and fight and fight for answers that would help him and me.

After years of doctors and day treatment and psychiatric testing, finally in ’07, he went into inpatient treatment. He needed help that I couldn’t give him. He was there for about 10 months. It was all so exhausting. Mentally, emotionally and physically. There was family therapy, onsite and at home. There was therapy for me and meetings to attend with his team. And the County to deal with. To fight to get him help. I started working my second job somewhere in there. I just didn’t make enough to cover it all. He came home from inpatient care and it was about six months before he was back with a vengeance. And so very clear about how much he didn’t care, about anything. I was done. I was completely in over my head and I caved. I sent him to live with his dad in Cali, he was 14. I needed a break. I needed to breathe. I needed to take care of myself for a minute.

It was then that I realized how painfully I had been living. I chalked my daily aches and pains up to the daily battles because it made sense. But, I still hurt, all over and all the time. I will never forget the day I realized how much it hurt for my cat to walk across the side of my leg, from my knee to my hip. I had always pushed her off me, never thinking why. And so in ’08 I began the search for answers for myself. Why do I hurt so much all the time? Why am I so exhausted? Why would I get migraines so regularly? Why does a day of housework cause me to miss a day at my job? The diagnosis for Fibromyalgia came in ’09 and I met it with mixed feelings. I think I still do. I like that there is an explanation for so many things that I deal with, but I still can’t put it in a place of complete acceptance for myself. I fight it and I think that is why I don’t expect much understanding from those around me. I stigmatize myself and because of that, I never give others a chance to participate in my life in general. I feel guilty for the way I live, the things I do so that I CAN live. I love being creative and hanging out with friends. I love conversation and laughter. In order to have all those things, I just have to go through life a little differently. In essence, the things I love exhaust all of my energy, but I will always strive to do them, because that’s what I want.

Part of growing up and growing as a person is trying to see the picture how it really is, not just the place we create in our minds. By reaching out to others that live with chronic pain and sharing our successes and struggles, I no longer feel alone in this fight. I have learned in a short time that there is strength in numbers. There is strength in vulnerability because it forces you to be honest. And as painful as the truth can be sometimes, it is liberating to live where the feelings are real. I can be happy in spite of my struggles and when I struggle with happiness, I have a support system that will allow me to be wherever I need to be at that very moment. And it is important for us to always feel the feels…all of them.

My son came home in 2010, when he was almost 16. One positive outcome was that he never threw a fist at me again. Other things did not improve and I counted the months until he turned 18. He lives in another state now and he is living his life. I wish so much happiness for him even though I cannot assist him with it. The bottom line is that he is living, making art and music and surviving on his own and for that I am happy. As for me, I will continue putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, step after sometimes-painful step and I will be thankful! Thankful for the person I am in my heart and thankful for the time I have left here to make a difference. I will find happy wherever I am, because it really is everywhere.

The difference between action and an idea

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect this winter. It was a brutal winter in Wisconsin. I’ve been reconnecting with my creative side. It’s been a killer journey. Ups and downs. Tears and laughter. Finding my center. Rebuilding my foundation. I had to go farther back in my memory bank than I hoped I’d have to, but I made it, I found my bloodline. The artist, writer, reader, nature lover and friend that I had lost contact with. Somewhere along the way she laid down to rest and took a snooze. It’s amazing what we do to protect ourselves…sometimes from ourselves. I chose the road untraveled and had a hell of a ride. I have the scars to prove it. And standing where I am today, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Which brings us to the epiphany I had after work today. I’m spending a lot of time these days rebuilding my art supplies and book lists and part of that is digging deep for what I’m passionate about. I have so many creative ideas bouncing around in my cranium that it gets hard to pick one and settle on it. What do I draw? Do I want to paint something? What’s my next project? As the Rolodex of ideas flips on, I land on an idea and it’s good, possibly marketable. But it doesn’t stick. And then it hits me, an idea that makes me feel a kind of happy that is rooted in my stomach and my brain. It gives me a rush that makes me feel young. And the next project is born.

The difference between action and an idea is the rush. It’s knowing that this will be my newest journey. A new chapter. Another untraveled road. And I’m up for the ride.