Under Pressure

The gray skies weigh heavy on my shoulders. It’s days like this I feel an overwhelming tiredness that consumes my whole being. It saps the strength to hold my head up, leaves my limbs leaden, my very being muddled.

I feel I could just close my eyes and sleep forever, but not a restful sleep, the kind of sleep you just don’t wake from.

There is a cancer ravaging me from the inside out. A cancer of the spirit. A cancer of the mind. Fed by frustration, self-doubt, irritation with bureaucracy, policy, rules meant to benefit the few, but suppress the many.

I’ve been here so many times. A cycle of sorts, predictable in its unpredictability. The highs, the lows, the struggle between the two, always just hoping for some sort of peaceful in-between.

It never comes. Oh, sure, there are lulls, spans of time, short or long, that seem convincing to onlookers, almost convincing to me. But it’s always there, the shadow lurking in my peripheral vision, just far enough out of reach for me to squelch for good. It’s always planning, scheming, waiting for the precise moment to attack.

Chameleon, it blends in with the daily trials of life. A celebration? Strike now, and push her over the top! And people say she’s having a really good time. She’s sad? Strike now, and push her over the edge! And people say she’s overreacting, she’s emotional, she’s irrational.

There are treatments. Chemical treatments that suck the life out of you, leaving you a shell of who you might have been. I tried them. Over and over again. I stopped feeling, I stopped thinking. I stopped being me.

There are other treatments. Drugs, alcohol. Self-medication. Trouble waiting to happen. I tried them. Over and over again. I found trouble, over and over again. I stopped feeling, I stopped thinking. I became a version of me I couldn’t live with.

There are more treatments. Clean eating, fitness. Get your body back to basics with the fuel and exercise it craves. I tried them. Over and over again. They work, sometimes a little too well. I started feeling, in bright swatches of color. I started thinking, grandiose visions that I was determined to achieve. I became a version of me that other people have a hard time living with.

There is no cure for mental illness. There are only band-aids. Temporary fixes.

I have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I may, or may not, have bi-polar disorder. My psychiatrists have said yes, my sister has said no, and most good days I’m on the fence about it.

I have these disorders. But they are not who I am. They do not define me, but perhaps they explain me in some ways.

And I’m out of cigarettes.

Finishing Strong

It seems like a lifetime ago, but once upon a time, I was in the Army. One of the places I was stationed for training was in Monterey, CA. It was beautiful. It was dreadful. It was a place for learning lessons – lessons the Army paid me to learn, and lessons no one should ever have to learn, about themselves and about the world we live in.

I decided long ago that I would move back to California someday, because the beauty far outweighed the pain.

However, tonight, almost seventeen years after my time in California, I believe I learned a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

When I was stationed in California, we used to have to do these battalion runs. I think they were about three miles long, which shouldn’t be horrible for someone who does PT (physical training) every day. But running was never my thing. I even had a profile (waiver) against running, I was that bad at it, and it took that much out of my body. So when we would do these runs, I think once per quarter, I would trudge along for about 2-1/2 miles, and would either finish at a walk, far behind the rest, or I would be picked up by the medic van and brought back to the formation. I never finished, not once.

I was thinking about that tonight, and about how often in my life I’ve given up, just trudging along until I quit or until someone picked me up and brought me back to where I was supposed to be. It’s not a very satisfying feeling at all. My whole life, I’ve taken the easy out, the fail, instead of looking for a way to push through, a way to succeed against all odds. I’ve always just told that voice in my head that I was “afraid” of success. What a load of crap!

I was never afraid to succeed. It was just easier to fail.

So, maybe you’re wondering what made me think of this lesson tonight? It’s simple, really. I’m 16 days into a 21-day detox/cleanse. It’s called the Ultimate Reset. It’s supposed to clean out all the gunk we habitually load into our bodies. We wonder why we feel like crap, have no energy, fall ill. It’s all of the toxic garbage we put into our bodies, whether we’re eating it, drinking it, or inhaling it. Slathering it on our skin. Toxins come from everywhere. Most people don’t realize that. Most people don’t care. They’ll keep going to the doctors, taking more medications, damaging their seemingly fragile yet impossibly strong bodies beyond belief. But I digress.

Tonight, I was hungry, and bored. Probably more bored than hungry. I was ready to eat anything I could get my hands on. I looked at the calendar, grabbed a glass of water, because I am allowed to have that, and thought about it. Since I knew I wasn’t really hungry, I got over the craving for junk. And I thought about the 16 days I’ve already gone through – the headaches, the cold, hot and cold flashes (mostly cold), the endless supplements and gallons of distilled water. I thought about all of the good foods that I’ve been introduced to, the proper eating habits, how good I actually feel. I thought about the fact that I only have five days left until the cleanse is over.

And I thought about never finishing a single battalion run while I was in California.

I’m not afraid of success. I’m not taking the easy fail. This is one run I’m going to finish.

The Trees

The trees in my backyard have so much character, as ever-changing as the seasons in New England. In the summer they offer a large canopy of green, shielding us from the sun, yet still allowing dappled light to filter through. The birds must make their homes in a couple of them. I found an empty nest on the ground in the fall, and was going to keep it because it was so perfect, just laying there on the ground. Unfortunately, Bear decided to mark it as his own, so on the ground it stayed, as a reminder that the winter would soon be upon us.
The Autumn brought brilliant colors in those trees. Even when all of the leaves let go and landed gently on the lawn, I still saw the beauty in them. Sure, it was week after week of raking, bagging and disposing of them, but for a bit there was a beautiful carpet of color where the green grass once was. Bear enjoyed running through them, and I laughed liked a child every time he went out. He would run all over the yard, trying to mark as many leaves as he could. Honestly, he’s quite a possessive puppy, and believes the world is his oyster. I don’t mind, so long as the marking is being done outside and not in. Halle also enjoyed the leaves. She collected many, pressed them in folders in her room, and one weekend made a wreath with those she had carefully chosen. That wreath hung on our front door until our Christmas wreath went up. She also chose a spot in the yard that had an abundance of colors, and carefully removed leaves until there was one word left, showing gloriously against the still green grass – LOVE. I took a picture and I have it saved as the lock screen on my phone.
The Autumn also brought a storm, Hurricane Sandy. We fared pretty well, but there were moments that I watched out the window as the wind and rain whipped around. Those trees swayed and bent and dropped twigs and branches, but for the most part, they stood firm. They would not be broken, no matter what Mother Nature threw at them that day. They showed me strength. They taught me that life will throw storms at you, but if you’re willing to bend under the pressure, you won’t break. When the storm passes, you may be a little beat up, but you’ll still be standing tall.
Now that winter is here, I stand out on the deck at night and stare up at the trees. On a clear night, I can see the stars through their bare branches. They stand guard along the back of the yard, seemingly a sentry to offer protection against whatever may come our way. In the wind, they make different noises. Some of the higher branches clack together, and sound like a game of croquet I once played at a friend’s house. Lower down the trunk, there must be branches closer together. They make the sound of a bow on a violin. Nature’s music. I could listen to it all night. During the day, I can see where an empty nest still sits high above the ground in the crook where the branch meets to trunk. I can see an old, deflated Mylar balloon caught up high in the tallest tree. It was here when we moved in, and I can’t see what occasion it was for, but I hope it was a happy one. I watch the squirrels scamper around the trunks and through the branches, always keeping an eye on me and Bear to make sure neither of us are getting too close. I don’t know where their homes are, but I see them carrying strips of bark from the neighbor’s log pile off, a little at a time. We have had a mild winter so far, but they know the worst is yet to come. They are preparing for the real cold.
I haven’t been in this home long enough to see the Spring, but I can imagine. The trees will rejoice, reawaken as the months pass. They will start to bud. At first, it will be hard to notice. Then, as the days go by, their branches will appear to have a faint greenish glow about them. A glow of health. A glow of new beginnings. Then one day I’ll look out the window, and the canopy will have blossomed again.
Yes, the trees in my yard have much character. I’m so incredibly happy that I’ve had the chance to meet them. I hope we have a few good years left together. I think they will be able to teach me much about my own character.

Change

It happens sometimes
Bits and pieces from pieces 
that were written long ago
They creep into new pieces
To remind me of who I once was
To perhaps bring me to a new
Or better
Understanding of who I need to be.
Forever growing
Forever changing
Hopefully into a better me
A more serviceable me
Someone to love
To live
To prosper as god intended
Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way
Sometimes two steps back
Is what is called for
And doors open and close faster
Than the blink of an eye
A breath
Is not long enough for me to slip through
And I am left stranded
Wondering what to do
Where to turn
Which path to follow
In a moment
When time seems to stand still
A leap of faith is required
As a catalyst for change
But no guarantees
That it will be successful
The grass is never really greener,
And I can only hope that the
Window or the door I choose is the right one.
12/29/12 (c) nsl

Senseless Suffering…

I’m sad. My heart is heavy. Literally a cement block taking up space in my chest. It hurts. Two bottles of wine later (one white, one red) has not helped. All of the posts on Facebook, all of the news updates, it’s all so overwhelming.

 Deep breaths.

 I played Christmas music today. Not holiday music. Christmas music. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, so be it. I don’t judge you. I’m not offended by whatever you celebrate, be it Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Ramadan…I’m not saying “Happy Holidays” anymore, I’m saying “Merry Christmas.” Don’t be offended by me.

 More deep breaths. A few sniffles. A tear clings to the corner of my left eye before I smudge it away.

 I baked today. For the first time in a long time. Before I heard the news about the shooting in Connecticut. My brother lives in Connecticut. My nephew is five years old. I have friends in Connecticut who have children in elementary school. I was relieved when I found out the name of the town, because I knew that none of my family or friends had been touched in the most personal way by the horrific happenings the news was reporting on.

 I didn’t allow myself to cry today. I didn’t feel I had the right. I have no children. Of my own. My boyfriend has children, and I love them. I would be heart-broken if anything happened to them. But it’s not the same as having your own child torn from your grasp. I can’t imagine the pain those parents must be feeling at this moment. Selfishly, I was thankful that I probably won’t ever know that feeling.

 Shallow breaths, now. Tears streaming down.

 I saw people say their faith in God was shaken today. People are angry. Unsure. They don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense. Injustice. Why children? Why anyone? Why does it seem we are destined to wipe each other out? Is there truth to the Mayan belief that the world will end this year?

 Swipe at my nose with my sleeve.  Tears have stopped for now, but I can feel the lump in my throat telling me they aren’t gone for good.

 The world as we know it ended a long time ago. Every generation experiences this.  Some of us, like me, are too stubborn to acknowledge that our world has changed beyond recognition. Some things we adapt to and accept. Others we can’t fathom. IDK, LOL, LMAO…I still spell most things out, even when I’m texting. I grew up playing outside until the streetlights came on. We didn’t fear our neighborhoods, our playgrounds or our schools. We had bullies, but not to the extent that bullying exists today.  An older girl tried to run me over with her car once. I didn’t bring a gun to school. I didn’t do anything. My parents raised me to respect myself. They raised me to not put stock in other people’s opinions. If someone doesn’t like me, it’s their loss, not mine.

 Back to deep breaths.

 Something has gone horribly wrong with our world. I’m no expert. And maybe my opinion doesn’t even matter. I don’t know if it’s in our parenting, our school systems, our government or our faith. Too may people don’t respect life, don’t respect other’s right to live, don’t respect creativity, innovation, reality. Too many children grow up not respecting these same things. It’s exponential. It needs to start at home. Respect. Respect of self. Respect of others.

 If there is no home, it needs to start somewhere.

 It only takes one person, one light in a child’s life to get them started on the right path, a better path. It only takes one defining moment to make a positive impact in a child’s life. Conversely, it only takes one defining moment to make a negative impact in a child’s life. Make a choice. Be a positive influence. Children emulate the adults they trust. Check yourself. Make sure you aren’t contributing to the lack of respect that is being learned by the next generation. Help form the world you want to live in, the world you want to leave as a legacy. You don’t like the world as you see it? Stop pointing fingers, and take responsibility. Make changes.

 It starts with you.

 It starts with me.

Post-Election 2012

Well, thankfully, the election is now over, and we can all return to the more pressing issue of actually living our own lives, versus bashing people we know and don’t know based on their political choices. Of course, for a few days, people on Face Book, Twitter, and other various social media outlets are now going to be celebrating their choice, or pointing fingers at those who didn’t vote the way they thought they should. Any cause for drama seems to be good enough for people to jump all over each other.

Realistically, does who wins the presidency really affect me, personally? Does it matter if I’m lower class, middle class or upper class? My baby sister told me that all kinds of programs were going to disappear if Romney won the election. One of those programs is the disability benefits for Veterans. Ok, I get that. I am a disabled veteran and I do get a monthly benefit. My sister is a disabled veteran. My father is a disabled veteran. 2012 was the first time in the last four years that there was an increase in the amount that we receive. I can’t speak for my sister or my dad, but that monthly amount, while it may help with the grocery bill, is not going to help me survive. She also told me that the welfare program would disappear. Ok. To be perfectly honest, I accept the fact that there are legitimate cases of people needing assistance from welfare. However, I think there are far too many cases of that system being abused by people looking for a free handout.

And there is the root of the problem. Free handouts. I don’t care if you were born here, if you’re here illegally, if you’re here legally…what makes you think you are ENTITLED to anything that you didn’t work for? I have worked and paid taxes since I was 16 years old. My very first tax-paying job was working for the town during the summer, keeping stats for the Summer League Basketball Team. From that job forward, I have had a myriad of other jobs. I worked in a shoe factory, I cut meat in a deli, I’ve worked in retail, property management, I cleaned office buildings, I moved furniture, I’ve held administrative/clerical jobs, AND I was in the United States Army. I didn’t once look for a handout from the government. I quit my job in July 2012. Yes, I filed an unemployment claim. I’ve also paid into unemployment insurance for the last 22 years. My claim was denied.  Am I sitting at home crying about the injustice of it? No! I’m working on building a business. I’m working on personal development. I’m taking care of my family.

That brings me back to the election. So many people complain about those running our country, and what they’re doing to screw over the little people, the big people, the small businesses, the big businesses…I’m tired of listening to it. My Facebook post today was, I think, the first reference I’ve made to the election. This is what it said:

Day 7: I’m thankful that the election is over. Perhaps now we can put our political differences behind us, and start working together to build the country we are looking for. It starts at home, not at the White House. 
“Prosper where you are planted” – Dani Johnson

It starts at home. Pay attention to what you are doing in your own home, in your own life, community, town, state. Pay attention to what you are teaching your children, through your actions and your words. Washington isn’t going to fix our lives, regardless of who is in the White House. It’s up to us to fix our own lives. I know we have freedom of speech, but really, if people can’t get a handle on their own lives and situations, what gives anyone the right to judge or criticize the way elected officials are running our country?

 

The Happiest Place on Earth…

…or is it? Day One of our California adventure started off in…California Adventure. Quite fitting, I think. I think we brought the heat and humidity from the East Coast to California with us. I think at one point it was 97 degrees. No clouds. Humid. Not the perfect conditions for trudging through a theme park with three kids and a baby in tow, but they were all troopers. I think for the most part, we all had a great time. We walked through Cars Land, but the wait for the Racers was 110 minutes. We moved on, thinking we would get to it later in the night when the lines wouldn’t be as long. We rode Soaring over California. It was air conditioned. Lovely. We rode the Little Mermaid UnderSea ride. Air conditioned. Lovely. We rode Monsters Inc. Air conditioned. Still lovely, except for Ethan didn’t really want to go on that ride. I took Halle on her first roller coaster. That was actually a great experience.

And I had the best corn dog EVER.

We decided midday to head back to Grampy’s house to cool off in the pool. That was a fantastic addition to the day. The kids had a blast, and we all got some welcome relief from the heat. It actually cooled off quite a bit once the sun started setting. 

Dinner was at In N Out Burgers. Best burger I’ve ever had. With Animal Style fries. Just like the kid said. Heaven. The kids got their In N Out hats. 

By the way…at this point, we’re still thinking it’s the happiest place on earth.

So we head back to Disney, thinking that we will hop on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We run through the park, only to get there and find the rides in Adventure Land have been temporarily closed for the Phantasma show. And the attendants are rushing every one along, and then the park plunges into darkness. Really? How are seven people and a baby carriage supposed to keep track of each other in the DARK???

We make it through. We get a little settled down and decide to ride the train through Disney back to Main Street for the fireworks. Uneventful, relaxing. We get to Main Street and watch the fireworks. 12 minutes and 24 seconds. I recorded them. Hopefully I can figure out how to post them later 🙂

Then the pain and agony starts. 

We now have to rush back over from Disney to California Adventure to get on the Radiator Springs Racers. The queue is deceptively wound under and around and through, so you can’t actually see how long the line is. We ask the attendant if he thinks we will make it on the ride before it closes (in an hours). He says, sure you will, go on in. After standing in line for an hour and 45 minutes, the kids are falling asleep and Ryan is frustrated beyond belief, but we are finally at the front of the line and about 15 people out from getting into a racer….

and the ride breaks down…

and they start it back up about 10 minutes later…

and the ride breaks down…

and doesn’t start back up….

…and this is no longer the happiest place on earth 😦