My 4th Once in a Lifetime Trips

It’s been a while since I sat down and recorded some thoughts. I’m not sure exactly why, because I enjoy the written word, except for the fact that time slips away. And it does so in a way that should make us all stop and take the time to do [insert activity here] whenever we can. I just got home from one such activity.

I spent the past almost two weeks with my beloved college roommate in the Pacific Northwest. Every year we head out for some healthy away time. Some time to rekindle our youth, (as sometimes I think we believe we are back in college when we are there), some time to just relax on the chilly beaches or the amazingly green forests, some time to make new friends which inevitably happens every year, a time to reunite with friends from years past, and time to just…be.

One step into the rainforests there can enlighten all of your senses. Your eyes dart in every direction. Up to see the glory in the insanely tall trees, down to ensure you’re still on the path, side to side to marvel in all of the furry moss on the trees. Your ears are fills with different sounds, birds, snapping of stepped on branches, moving water whether from the falls or tiny little creeks, the smell of nature fills your nose as you take deep breaths to infuse it through your body. You touch different things, the above mentioned moss, and feel it’s softness in wonder, the slime of a banana slug (if you’re brave enough), the damp handrails of the bridges. And taste? Only if you’re wise and bring provisions for the walk. It is truly amazing as to what can he encountered there as you walk with your group in silence, desperately trying to take it all in and store it in your mind, heart and soul. It will never stop being astonishing. Never.

Brandy and I made this trip alone this year. Usually there will be anywhere between 4-6 of us, however, all but she and I couldn’t go. It took quite some time and a bit of debating, but we decided, why not? We need this trip. We long for this trip. We love this trip. She and I spent a lot of time talking, laughing, meeting new people, possibly a touch of drinking, shopping, hiking, eating, and wearing rain jackets. Because if you know anything about the PNW, you know that rain is inevitable. This year however, the rain gods were a plenty. And by a plenty, I mean it basically didn’t stop for most of the trip. We got a few chances to get out of the beach when the rain stopped, but those were few and far between.

I mean really, how could anyone not want to be there?

I’m so grateful for the time that I get to spend out there. I’m grateful that my family (hesitantly) lets go of me long enough to recharge myself. I’m grateful for all of the friends, new and old, that I get to catch up with, laugh with, and be myself with.

Sadly, in a blink of an eye, the trip ends. We travel home excited to see our families, but longing for just one more day in the beauty that is the PNW. The good news is that the declared once in a life trip continues on and I can’t wait to go back.

This Is How It Works

Pain does interesting things to people. Or maybe I should just speak from my own perspective since everyone is different, and people manage pain differently.

I wish I could tell you that last time I was pain free, but it has been too long. If I had to guess, it would be close to three years now. There have been variations of degrees of pain, but it’s always there. And here is what it does to me.

My right shoulder. Sleeping on my right side is limited. I can start that way but have woken up yelping in pain more times than I can count.

My left hip. Sleeping on my left side is limited. I can start that way but have woken up yelping in pain more times than I can count. You see what I did there? Talent.

My ankles. By the end of the day they are throbbing. Some days the pain brings me close to tears. Those are the days I soak in an epsom salt bath. Walking hurts, standing hurts, bending them hurts. So I lay down a lot.

My wrists and fingers. If overused they swell and become rather sore and inflamed. I shake them out to try and help with that, but it doesn’t really work.

And new to the group, the left side of my left thigh. I’m not sure what’s going on with it, no injuries, not a joint, but that thing hurts. A new type of hurt so I should probably tell someone about it.

And here is what all of these things put together do to me. I’m tired. Being in pain is exhausting. I push myself through the day at work, but by the time I get home, I’m done. Sometimes during the day I think of things that I would like to do after work, and as the day goes on I can feel those thoughts becoming more wishful thinking than anything else. Because I know when I get home I will be useless. Which brings on other emotions such as….

Guilt. Most days I feel like I can’t give to my family what they not only need, but deserve. They deserve to have a mom who takes them places, who doesn’t have to spend the weekend recovering from the week, someone who is not limited. My husband deserves to have a wife who is more of a partner, not someone who struggles to have the energy to make dinner at night. Not someone who can’t keep their eyes open most nights past 7. Not someone who also is dealing with…

Anger. Pain makes me angry because well, oddly enough, pain hurts. And it’s not easy to hurt all of the time. It makes me short with those I love and it makes me quiet when normally I wouldn’t be. At 43, no one plans to have a disease that causes all of the above. In actuality, I’ve had sarcoidosis for going on 14 years, but the last three have been the most trying. And it’s not easy to live like this. And with chronic pain also comes…

Depression. Sometimes it’s next to impossible to claw out of the pit of depression. I feel like most of the time I succeed, but there are times when the toll of being in pain daily just knocks me down. Having to deal with appointments and tests, and non-answers from doctors is sometimes more than I can handle. But I go on, because that’s what I have to do.

When all is said and done, all of the above feelings just make me sad. Pain is sad and not fair. And to have an incurable disease that results in pain, sucks. Some days are worse than others so I try to focus on the good days. I try to ignore the limp the pain has caused. I try to focus on the good things. I try to not let pain win. But some days? Some days that is a challenge. Today is one of those days.

Work Ethic…Not Just For the Work Place

I’m sitting in my chair, in my quiet living room staring at my sleeping dogs with frankly, a bit of envy. I’ve been home from my job for and hour and 45 minutes and still have my shoes on and haven’t been in the least bit productive. By now I usually have on a pair of sweats, a ratty old t-shirt and fuzzy socks. But not today. I am having trouble rousing up the energy to even walk back to my bedroom. Today, work has won the battle. Not the war. Not yet. But the battle has pushed my body past the point of being pain free, although that could be due to my autoimmune inflammatory disease as well. The two together appear to be trying to slowly take all that I am away from me, and to be honest, that sucks. 

My job can be physical, maybe about 75% of it is. And today I found myself burning the candle at both ends, trying to ensure that the job got done. And while my candle was flickering away, I observed others who, for some reason, do not share my obsession of performing with a sense of urgency.  In the end what tends to happen in situations like these, is that a handful of people push themselves even harder to make up for those who can’t for whatever reason, carry their own weight. And that is disheartening. And frustrating. And exhausting. 

But this is a lesson that we begin to learn at a young age. Think back to school and when you had to work on a group project. There is usually the one person who does as little as possible to get by. And of course there was the person (or people) who ended up picking up that slack in hopes to achieve a good grade. Why does this happen? Why is this acceptable? And this is where it all starts, where that one person figures out that as long as the minimum is being met, they will pass. The minimum. Is that what you want to be known for? The minimum? And while things may seem easier for these people because let’s be honest, they get away with it, that way of thinking most likely will continue with them through their lives. To their jobs and relationships, down to their how they keep their personal space. 

Then there’s the rest of us. Those of us who pick up the slack. Whether it’s at work or at home. But some should take heed. There may come a time when the people who have worked above and beyond decide to hell with it. There may come a time when we can’t take it anymore, we WON’T take it anymore, and change must happen. It will be up to us to decide on the change that will suit us best. The sad thing is that those who matter won’t even see this coming. They’ve become so accustomed to relying on those people that they are almost not even aware of exactly how much gets done because of them. 

I don’t say these things to discourage people from going above and beyond, regardless of the hard work involved. I say these things to make you self aware, and to ask you to question if you want to be the “bare minimum” type. Do you want to be the one people end up resenting because they pull your weight? Don’t be that person. For the sake of those around you, just don’t. 

I feel like I haven’t done a good job with the written word expressing how I’m feeling. But in my defense, I’m exhausted from carrying someone else’s weight today and have literally dozed off and on. Trying to sort my thoughts while half asleep isn’t panning out too well for me, so I’ll be done for now. 7:45pm, and I would be fine going to bed right now. Sigh…

Moving On

When faced with adversity, we have choices. We are fortune that we can make decisions on our own, and are fortunate  to have that option. And there’s nothing like adversity, or being put in an uncomfortable position to make you realize how lucky you are that you do have that right. But the process in making decisions on how to handle whatever adversity you’re dealing with, now that is the tricky part. 

How do you decide what is best for you? And in making that decision, do you factor in other people? I have found when making choices about people that I tend to put others first. Their wants and needs take precedence over my own. And it’s because of one simple thing. I feel guilty. Does putting my own desires ahead of others make me selfish? I truly don’t know. And the bigger question is where do you draw the line? At what cost? 
There are some people, two in particular, that I have chosen to cut out of my life. I felt it was something I had to do to be able to move on. To be mentally healthier (I say healthier because I doubt there will come a time that I am 100% mentally healthy. It is a fact that I’m ok with). And every once in a while I think maybe I should let them back in. And so I slowly open the  metaphorical door, and take a gander at what’s going on out there. Because maybe they have changed, and maybe I am selfishly restricting relationships that others in my world want to have with said people (there’s that guilt). But without fail, I kid you not, every single time I am reminded harshly of why I closed that door in the first place. How many times will this have to happen before I stop opening that door for good? When will I say enough is enough and stop setting myself up for hurt and disappointment? I don’t have an answer for those questions right now, and possibly never will. And I may just have to come to terms with that. 

But for now, I’m moving on. I’m closing that door once again and walking away because at this point in my life, I don’t need that added stress. I have to be confident in my decision, and trust that I’m doing the right thing for me at this moment. I do wish things were different, that this opening and closing of doors wasn’t something I had to do,  but it is what it is. Some things we can’t change and accepting that fact is half the battle. I can’t change someone else’s behavior, but I can certainly decide if I want to be a part of it or not. I choose to not. However, I need to learn how to be ok with that. Learn how to let it go and not let it consume me. Moving on is a tricky process and takes patience, time, and acceptance. But I think with a little practice I’ll get there and be a better person for it in the end. At least that’s what I hope. 

The Intro

The piano starts, the beat increases. I settle in and every single time, the emotions start. Every single time Netflix asks if I want to skip the intro. And every single time I don’t, because that intro has meaning to me. It throws me back 13 and a half years to when I would sit on our couch, some days defeated, always tired and waited for the show to begin. The Office. I have watched the series an obscene amount of times and never tire of it. Ever. And every single time I have sat through the intro music, sometimes tapping my foot, others just in waiting. 

Because you see, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, The Office was in it’s second season. And we faithfully watched it every week.  It served as my escape. For a half an hour I didn’t think about being bald, feeling like my body had been run over twice, having to fight for my life to be around for my newborn and 18 month old daughters. I laughed. Often. Waiting to see what prank Jim would pull on Dwight. To see when Michael would drop the “that’s what she said” bomb and any and all inappropriate times he could manage to find. To see when Toby would meekly approach someone with his HR mannerism and try to bring them back to appropriateness. He never would. Or could. But that time was mine. A time for me to be me again.  

Cancer took its toll on me. It made me scared, worried, angry, and most of all made me doubt my body. But The Office, it erased those feelings every week for a half an hour. And I treasured that time. I had to. I worked all throughout my treatments and by the end of the day, my body was done. Physically, emotionally, mentally. Done. I needed something that could replace those negative feelings and The Office did just that. 

13 and a half years. And while most of those negative emotions have faded into the past, I still watch The Office and I remember how it saved me, to some degree. So when I hear that intro, that beautiful piano, I sit back knowing that if I have had a bad day, or week, or month, I know that I can count on the show to break through those negative feelings. I wonder if those involved with the show could comprehend what they did for me? That their simple comedy pulled me through some of my darkest times. The power of laughter is strong, and it can do great things. 13 and a half years, and it never gets old. Thanks Office, I am forever grateful.

The Unknown

On these cooler days we love to open up the windows and allow the cross breeze to work it’s fall magic in our home. The curtains pillow with the air sending the smell of fall through the house. I pull my blanket up a little higher as I am one of those people who enjoy a cool breeze while snuggled under my fleece homemade throw blanket. But along with the cross breeze comes slamming of doors that have not been propped open by a book or shoe, or whatever else is handy nearby. The bathroom door in particular slams with a vigor that shakes the whole house. And with that slam is the inevitable and uncontrollable shaking of one of our dogs. I believe that she is convinced that a force greater than ours is in the house and ready to attack. Guard dog, she is not. 

That got me thinking about her thought process and the fear she has of the unknown. She thinks something may be there, but is not quite certain. And the reaction of the family, including myself, is to say that she is silly, and sometimes to even get frustrated. But in all honesty, is she much different than her human companions? How often do we spend time worrying about things that haven’t happened? How much mental and emotional energy do we use with “what if’s”? We hold back on things that maybe we want, or even need, because we are afraid of what the outcome may be. We miss out on opportunities because we are uncertain if things will work out in the end. 

If our dog would just take that step and walk to the bathroom, she would see nothing is there. Nothing but the wind. But her fear holds her back from that realization. What if we could take that step? Imagine all of the new experiences and opportunities we could have. Silly humans…

It takes a village 

I find it amazing to watch how society has an ebb and flow type of way of existence. Like anything else in life, society takes three steps forwards, and two steps back. But sometimes what is in those two steps back is scary, sickening, sad and disheartening. 

We live in a small town, next door to an even smaller town where the girls go to school. The things that drew us to small town life is among other things, simplicity, closeness of people, and safety. We can walk down to the one grocery store in town, the library, parks, and local gas stations for an ice cream cone. We smile and say hi to others, the gesture is returned. It’s a pretty town with a downtown “main strip” filled with unique stores and quaintness. Streetlights are adorned with the current holidays decoration, benches line the sidewalk to sit and take in the beauty.  But lurking in the corners are some negativity, to which I will explain. 

My kids are in 8th and 9th grade. High school, where some of the typical things happen when you groups kids of this age together. But in the day and age of social media, things are magnified, and some are even permanent. A year or two ago my eldest made some choices on social media and through texts (nothing of the sexual manner) which she paid the price for…mostly from her parents. Lessons were learned, painfully. 

Fast forward to the current year. School has be in session for less than a month. In English class the eldest is learning about the holocaust. It is having a profound affect on her as she reads and discusses about the horrors that were endured.  But what comes along with learning about this tragic time period, are those peers who don’t quite get it.  The ones who give the Hitler Salute to each other. Who mock Jewish people, saying jokes about them. All in good humor, though, right? Then it goes another step to classmates using the “n” word, bashing those with different sexual preferences and such.  Why is this thought to be ok? Or even funny? A dad joke, now that’s some funny stuff, but calling someone the “n” word? No comedic value what so ever. And let’s take it even one more step. My eldest has been given the honor of being a dama in her friend’s quinceañera. At one of the practices, one of the boys asked her if her parents knew what she was doing. She answered yes. Then he asked her if we were ok with it. I want to say that she was perplexed by the question, but she knows better. She again answered that yes, we were ok (more like thrilled that she was given that honor) with her participation in the quinceañera. Because you see, there would be some that would not be, simply due to the different race. And what’s even more sad is that this boy knew it. He knew that some parents in town would not approve, and how sad is that? 

But I am raising a child who chooses to not go with the crowd. Who has no issue standing up and telling people they are being hurtful with the words they use and how they use them. She was asked today if it bothered her that people wouldn’t like her for “telling” on them for giving the Hitler Salute. Her response was a simple no. 

And we have come full circle. From a child (because let’s face it, she was a child at the time) who got in hot water for things she said on social media and texts, to becoming the person who stands up against the majority at her school for the above mentioned things. To say that I am proud of her is an understatement. It’s not easy to be that person. The easy way is to follow what others are doing, she is blazing her own path and I can’t wait to see what becomes of her. 

Time is slippery

“I don’t have time”. It’s been said so often, with anguish, with frustration, with hopelessness. We have grand notions of getting together, of vacations, of hobbies, of whatever, and sometimes, that’s all they all. Grand notions. Life gets in the way. Careers, day to day drivel that we do almost on autopilot, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. And then we wonder where time has gone. “It feels like yesterday” is a common phrase we say to ourselves, to each other. And it does. It feels like yesterday I took my oldest to preschool with her backpack that was way too big for her, almost touching the back of her knees. And now we are preparing for her to drive. It feels like yesterday that my second daughter fell off of her bike and broke her jaw and scored stitches in her chin. And now, she is a teenager who feels all of the feels around her with her whole heart. 

We can’t stop time from slipping through our fingers, try as we may.  It slips and slides faster than our brains can ever comprehend, we blink, and suddenly, it’s gone. In the midst of the toddler ages we question if that phase will ever end. If it will get better, easier. Suddenly the kids reach high school, and we wonder what happened to time.  Where on earth did it go?

Yes, time can be a cruel thing. We think we have so much of it, but at the same time we complain that we don’t have enough. So which is it? Too much or little? Maybe it’s not a matter of how much, but a matter of how it’s spent. And with who. And what we chose to do with the time we have. 

About three weeks ago I spoke to my uncle who was facing a tough road with illness. We made plans. We were going to get together after my trip. Two days prior to coming home, he passed away. It didn’t matter that we made plans. Because time, like I said before, time can be cruel. Death fills you with a sense of urgency, all the things you say you want to do,  the people you want to visit, the hobbies you keep putting off because you don’t have time for them…if not now, when? 

My head hurts from the off and on crying I’ve done today for my uncles funeral. I just want to shake people and say don’t wait to do the things you want to do. Don’t wait to get together with those you want to surround yourself with. Because sooner than later, your response will be, that you thought you had more time. We don’t. We have what we have, no more, no less. But life gets in the way. The mundane day to day takes priority over what we really want. And I wish I knew how to fix that.