The Worst Friend in the World.

To the long list of you whom I have called, intended to call, or still call, “friend”:

 

I know I owe you a novel, and I know it’s been ages.  I think about you so much, wanting to know how you are, what’s happening in your life.  Wondering what life is teaching you, how big the kids have grown… ugh… you know… just missing you.  I feel like I should apologize to you for not communicating, but to be honest…I just have to do the best I can, and I have truly been doing that.  Life is just full.  Full, in an overwhelming, mental breakdown kind of way, and it has been on that ledge for so long, I feel like I can never quite get my footing.

I was remembering the other day about how much life changes when you add a baby to your family. When you have small children in your home, it’s like everything is put on hold… time passes and you feel like you’ve gotten absolutely nothing done.  You lose touch with people, your house is a mess, you often forget what day it is, and it seems impossible to do anything you used to do; and then it hit me:  Five and a half years ago, I had a baby (making me the mom of two beautiful, and all-consuming little girls), opened a business, and was diagnosed with a chronic illness all at the same time.  These are those *events* that turn your life upside down, the kind that change your course and knock the wind out of you.  I know that should be obvious info to me, but though I wouldn’t deny those facts, I don’t give myself the same grace that I give other people.  I still want and often expect myself to be the same me that I was before, and I feel like I owe it to you, as my friend, to be that person.

The baby is in Kindergarten now (her sister about to turn 13 and make me the proud parent of a teenager), the business is bigger than me, and well, the chronic illness… it’s now more familiar to me than being healthy, and what I keep hearing in my head is: “I am the worst friend in the world.”

I know, I know.  I shouldn’t allow negative self talk like this to continue playing on repeat in my head.  I’ll work on that, but for now it’s sincerely a struggle not to beat myself up when I see the gaps forming in my relationships and the missed opportunities to connect with others on a personal level.  So many unreturned phone calls, emails left without response, Facebook messages, party invitations, dinner invites, texts I never acknowledged, cancelled outings, and even a standing list of good intentions on my end to begin cultivating new relationships…I’m pretty sure that to a lot of people, I am perceived as a total jerk, and more importantly than anyone’s perception, I sincerely feel the disappointment associated with the degradation of these relationships.  I want to make room.

My reality is this.  I have a shorter day than most people to work with.  In order to function at a level that my symptoms are manageable, I have to sleep about 14 hours or more a day.  When I don’t do this, my symptoms slowly take over and I gradually work myself into being “grounded” and stuck in bed completely for days or weeks on end.  So, as a rule, I make it my goal to get this much sleep.  To keep things interesting, spontaneously, I get slammed for what seems like no apparent reason, so I am always “on call” to my illness.  But, on the good days, sleep is usually the best way to keep things under control.  Another part of maintaining some sort of control is with my diet.  Processed foods pretty much wreak havoc on my body, so it has become a huge priority to try to keep a more natural approach to what I eat, and that has carried over into how we eat as a family.  We try very hard to primarily eat “real” foods, which of course is a huge transition when this was not a previous way of life, and takes a huge investment of time, organization, and money… which, while we’re on the subject, has anyone else out there noticed a shortage of these things these days, or is it just me??  Weird.   Oh well…  Somewhere mixed in with the health priorities, I get small bursts of drive to seek medical care, and invest into myself by pursuing tests, going for checkups or treatments, though admittedly this gets neglected (ironically due primarily to a lack of energy), and often feels impossible to “stuff” into my day.

Next, I have a family that I love.  When I am physically able, I want to spend as much time as I can, attending my daughters’ school functions, listening to them talk about their day, reading books together, chauffeuring them to activities, being involved.  I’ll take it, whatever I can get.  I have sacrificed so many of these things over the years because of being forced out of the game by physical limitations, but every “good day” that I have, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with my family (though it never does feel like enough time is spent here).  Dates and alone time with the hubby have recently been re-defined.  Attending the kids’ activities, riding together in the car, watching a 30 min sitcom (while falling asleep) at the end of the day, or having a business meeting to discuss pending decisions are now qualified as “dates”.  For now, we are gonna roll with it and look forward to future seasons of a more romantic scenario.

Filling the rest of my time and life, and constantly threatening to encroach upon the above two areas would be the business.  When my youngest daughter was 3 weeks old, and life was feeling rather simple and peaceful, I decided that it was a great time to go get my DBA, and pursue a dream of entrepreneurship and open my own company.   My dreams and vision have always been *huge*, but I had no idea whatsoever what this journey would mean to our future.  I opened a photography company, intending on specializing in family portraits, working with children, newborns, maternity sessions, etc, though my previous background was in the wedding industry.  Slowly this initial vision evolved, and one step led to another, and the company gradually transitioned into a wedding photography company.  I created a monster.  Seriously.  It is bigger than me and sometimes feels so overwhelmingly out of control I feel that I want to go to the airport and take a flight to an indisclosed location and hide.  That is not a joke, but a sincere feeling of desperation at times.  Obviously, it did not get here overnight… and obviously, there was a night and day effort and investment on my part to create said monster and drive it forward… but… I plead ignorance.  I knew not what I did.  With my husband partnering with me in this venture, we now have a team of 14 of us that actively make up this little company.  We are currently holding interviews to add at least 5 more people to the team within the next few weeks/month, and looking at the growth ahead, I can only see that expanding.  I love this team, and these people, and am devoted to continuing to do everything I can to provide opportunities.  I am completely passionate about this.  But as people generally do… each member of the team comes with their quirks, demands, differences, excuses, strengths, and weaknesses, and at the end of the day… I’m mother hen, and when people want answers, want money, or want to complain, I have to be available in this way.  The number of clients that keep us in business and the demands and expectations that they place on their service from our company, combined with the pressure of handling one of the most important days of their lives, is not something that I can take lightly, and has become severely intimidating to me as we continue to grow.  As a matter of fact, it is a complete discipline to stay in the moment when the time has come for me to rest or spend time with my family because of being so distracted by my emotional ties to this responsibility.  As you can imagine, the whole 14 hours of sleep a day concept often gets compromised and I run myself ‘till there is nothing left, in efforts to keep up.  The scary thing is, we are really just beginning.  This past year has been the most rapid season of growth that we have ever seen, and the growth just keeps coming.  Not to mention that we are expanding into other ventures.  You see, I want to devote my life to providing opportunities to help people reach and fulfill their potential, and I also want to leave something solid behind for my family’s financial future.  I have to say though, had I known that the path to this goal entailed being stretched and pushed in the ways that Derek (my husband), and I have been over the course of these last few years, I don’t know that we would have had the courage to open this door.  The business is a story for another blog…or maybe a book…?

You wanna learn what you are made of??  Get sick.  Or open a business.  Or… hey, do both, and why not add to your family while are at it!

Ok, so there’s my life.  Summed up neatly into three parts.  Somewhere stuffed into all of this, are the intentions to exercise, have a spiritual life, take time to relax, aaaand, you guessed it…among other things… to connect with friends.  Family commitments ebb and flow, as does the business, and as do my health issues.  But I either have to choose to wait for that absolutely rare moment when all of these things align in a way that makes room in life for more, or just try my best to keep reaching out in between the cracks, and in the midst of the chaos in a very messy and extremely inconsistent way.  Usually it’s the latter, and those efforts are so spaced apart and so sporadic that I often end up just opening one side of a two way effort for communication, only to walk away and get caught up and consumed by one the above mentioned components and therefore confirming my theory that I am very possibly in fact the “worst friend in the world”.

One thing that I know for certain that I can always trust and count on is the changing of seasons.  For now, I’m going to put my hope into that, and embrace the “in betweens” that come along.  I guess by doing that, you might say that I’m being a pretty good friend to myself, and in the grand scheme of things, maybe that will make me a better friend to you when our paths cross next.

 

 

Reblog: 50 Ways to Help a Chronically Ill Friend

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am very fortunate to have such a great support system, and so many loving advocates and friends in my life. I came across this article that I thought may resonate with some of you out there who are traveling the same road whose friends and loved ones are trying to adjust and learn how to support you. Chronic illness is definitely an isolating business, and though it can be tricky (and tiring!) to manage relationships, build friendships, and include others in our lives, we still need people! These are some great ideas on how to support someone you love who is chronically ill, as well as their care-taker/children, who are fighting the battle and adjusting their lives as well.  To view this article, simple follow the link above.

A Scary Little Glimpse Inside of the Mind of Yours Truly

So, I thought it might be fun to share my writing “process” with you just a bit.  Primarily because, I’m just realizing that I do have a “process” now, and I find that to be rather peculiar, slightly amusing, and for some odd reason somewhat reassuring as well.

First, let me give you a little background on where I am coming from at this time.  The ups and downs with my health recently have honestly been so overwhelming for me that I have sincerely been struggling and very discouraged.  I have seen my physical symptoms go from threatening and irritating, to all-consuming and out of control.  I glaze over these things in my blog typically because I some slight part of me that feels I should be keeping it under control.  I may begin sharing a little more detail on this at some point, as well as more about the course of treatment that I am currently choosing, but for now… back to my process.

The first step seems to begin with my pondering, analyzing and searching my feelings for quite some time, before I can formulate any words.  The feelings well up inside of me so strongly that I sometimes feel as if I am suffocating and can not see anything else until I find some artistic expression or home for them.  Specifically regarding the poem I am introducing below, in the middle of this dark space that I have been in, I have been fortunate to have just a handful of VIP’s in my life, that have been patient with me, persistent when I pull back, and encouraging me along with amazing sensitivity.  Yesterday evening I saw just a glimmer of light in that dark space as I was sitting up awake with my pain level being too high for me to comfortably sleep and at the same time wrestling with anxiety about how to handle the next day,  and that glimmer came along as I had the opportunity to banter with a few of these special people in my life.   After a few hours of good conversation, I finally felt ready to relax, rest, and call it a night, yet I suddenly began to feel overcome with gratitude for my husband, my two little girls, and these amazing friends that are so often holding me up on this journey.   As I embraced this small, yet refreshing glimpse of hope in the middle of the cloud that I had been in, I had such a clear visual come to my mind of a spark of light coming in to a window in a dark room. “Windows, there are windows!” I thought…or maybe I should say, I remembered for the first time in a very long season.  I have felt so very stuck and utterly surrounded by this familiar and frustrating set of limitations that I completely lost sight of anything beyond this, and was I was pretty convinced that the walls were closing in on me.

Just as I begin to embrace the peace of sorting through the thick fog of feelings, I would say that my writing process then truly begins and this build up of feelings that can often take what seems like an eternity of snowballing has suddenly become an enormous and undeniable force that I feel I can no longer contain and keep to myself!  I then follow up with something resembling the first paragraph below, which is the equivalent of me “throwing up” on the page, and has no rhythm, structure, or poetic flow, and then somehow in the midst of this mess I interrupt myself with what becomes a little more of a controlled form of organized and balanced communication, and the end result is with this evolving into something more like the second portion of the writing below.

The first paragraph that I am sharing with you is actually what I initially sat down and began writing yesterday evening, and the second is the poem that developed after my first messy explosion on the page.  And though, I can say that the end result here is not a masterpiece by any means, this gives you just a little insight into what it took to get to that neat and tidy “blip” that becomes the final draft that I share with you all.  When it is all said and done I feel like I have been through something and am completely exhausted, yet at the same time I also feel as if I have lost a bit of weight that has been bogging me down and can finally be released to move forward to a new place.  So this little poem may seem rather “trite”, and cute, but don’t let the length fool you.  That baby is packed so tightly with emotion, background, and little pieces of my soul, and is never something that is rattled off without thought or significance, no matter how small or simple the final presentation appears to be! 🙂

And with that, before I share this poem, I want to insert this little aside… The writing below is just me saying Thank You, to all of those that are sticking with me through the trenches.  For unique reasons, different depths of relationship, some as simple as a smile, others for allowing me to expose all of my ugliness and candor, I want to say thank you and call out a few VIP’s: Derek, Amanda, Sandrine, Jennifer Z., Judy, Tanya, Wyatt, Christina C., Deirdre, Lisa, Charlene, Whitney N., all of my new “blog friends” that are walking this same path right along with me: Kate, Jane, Trisha, Sandy, Heather, (Gentle Hugs to you guys, and may you all find many “windows” & angels to lead you there & clear the fog when you grow weary). I don’t really understand why you all have decided to travel this road along with me, but I am forever grateful to you, and my heart is full because of your love and devotion.


Round one (or as I tend to endearingly label as: me throwing up on the page) :   

often times the fog is so heavy that when I look around I forget that there are Windows in this room. Thank you for reminding me that they are there.   It can get so stuffy in here, and my vision can become so limited.  Sometimes the pain becomes so bad, that I just forget what Laughter feels like.  Thank you for bringing me joy, for making me smile, until laughter comes and renews everything like the rain refreshes in the springtime.

Final Draft (which originally interrupted the lines above and was intended to be a continuation of what I was writing – until I recognized what had happened and added on the title):

Windows

There are windows in this room

There is something more than pain

There is strength to be found

And laughter will come like rain.

Sometimes I need a little help

Clearing the murky view

But once it is wiped away

On the other side is you.

Thursday – Reblog For Ya… :)

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/personal-essays/im-still-me-just-slightly-modified/


Casting the First Stone

Dear friend,

I am not writing this in defense or response to how I have been personally treated, but rather in response to recently witnessing blatant discrimination and selective approval being given to others by people in my life who are basing their actions on their beliefs and convictions.  I know we are all struggling, learning, growing, but it just hurts my heart and surprises me each and every time I see one group “rise up” above another in pride, refusing to embrace and respect others who do not share our beliefs.  It just seems like such an outdated and ridiculous place for us to be in this current time in life.

If you were to examine my life more closely I can ensure you that there will definitely be something within its contents that does not align with your vision for how things “should” be.  There would no doubt, be something that offends you, something that you would do differently, a choice you would not support, a number of things that you do not remotely understand, and much that you could absolutely do and handle “better” and more effectively according to what you see as ideal or what you define to be right.  We could all do this to each other, given the opportunity.

The joy of the FB craze is that it connects us.   All of us really messed up, imperfect, quirky people, are now mingling about and sharing a world with each other that makes us appear to be a network that is walking through the journey of life and doing the best we can to do it well, together.  We observe how those in our network live their lives.  Maybe according to our perspective they are too candid or detailed with the info that they share.  Maybe we are “shocked” at the language that they use, the activities that they are participating in, or the person who they appear to us to be.  Or possibly, they say all the right things… they are clever, they are witty, or just have our stamp of approval because they seem like “good” people.  Whatever your impression, please do keep this in mind.  People are people and were there living their lives before you had the window of FB to peer through.  You were doing life with them, before you knew of the details that you now see.

We are not required to condone, invest in, or encourage any lifestyle that we do not support.  We are not either expected to change our lifestyle and our convictions to that which others in our world (FB friend, customer, co-worker, etc) are engaged in.  But if our personal beliefs cause us to feel justified in requiring another person to change into who we expect them to be as a pre-requisite for being treated with love, respect, or friendship, then I might suggest that the author of those particular beliefs is not actually a higher power, but possibly just the higher attitude of ourselves over others around us.

I will openly tell you (and knowing that not everyone in my life or my FB shares my belief) that I personally believe in God.  I believe in a God that created the universe and who set my life in motion.  I believe that God breathes life into us with a purpose and a plan.  All of us. I believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe that Jesus Christ walked the earth and lived and served as an example of love and God in the form of a man.  Though He did not have a FB page, I believe He did walk along side other people on this journey as we are.  He served them.  He mingled with them.  He met them where they were.  He hoped to inspire them to be all that they can be and to offer them a message of hope and peace.

The God and the Jesus that I personally believe in did not carry Christianity or religion as a tool tucked safely behind their backs and await unsuspecting people that they could attack with this handy tool as if it were a mallet.  Jesus did not wait for people to “clean up their act” before He would associate or be seen with them.  He didn’t offer a relationship under any pretense or guise.  He was sincere, He treated people with love and respect, and He did so knowing full well of whom they were and being completely aware of their quirks, bad habits, tendencies and differences.  He met them, accepted them, and embraced them “as is”.

And, by the way (just a side note)… Bible says that we “all have sinned and fall short”.  Is your sin greater than mine or vice versa?  Which one is worse?  Just because you can relate to (or practice personally) a particular “moral failure” more comfortably than another does not mean that we have the right to judge or call ourselves superior to someone who is struggling in a different area.  Do you know how ridiculous and prideful it is to cast out a group of people because of their “sin”, and then to overlook and embrace those in the category of our preferred “sin of choice” that we are more tolerant of or find more relatable?  There is not a single one of us who can claim to be blameless or perfect.  So how is it acceptable for us to “toss” people away because their faults, sin, lifestyle are more outwardly obvious or apparent to us than another’s!

The Jesus that I believe and the God that I base my life around did not submit that love and respect were to be earned, but that they were given freely and without exception.  So what I do not understand is why so many of us that profess to believe in this Jesus, and walk with God seem to have some perverted belief that the people in our lives are lesser beings then ourselves because they do not share our same lifestyle or belief system.  Shame on us for requiring that others around us “clean up their act” according to our personal convictions before they are worthy of our love.  Shame on us for thinking that we could live someone else’s life better than they can, when we have no idea of their past, the path that they are on, with little to no insight to their circumstances, and when we are completely ignorant of the personal purpose they are created for.

If you knew me.  If you truly knew ME.  You would find that my life does not align with yours as a complete parallel.  Most of those differences, I have to admit, are completely by intention!  I am an imperfect, “messy” human being (and might I suggest…as are you?) J.  I have habits that you would find offensive!  I make choices that I know very well that you would not agree with.  But despite how you think that should or might make me feel… (empty, unhappy, depressed, unfulfilled?), I have never been more whole and more at peace with who I am and who I am created to be!  It is so freeing to know and admit that I could NEVER be perfect, and that I am accepted and loved in spite of this.  I honestly believe that God has better things to worry about than so and so’s foul mouth, love for tobacco, or drinking habit.  I believe He is focused on bigger issues!  And I never cease to be shocked by the disgusting way that WE use our beliefs as a justification to discriminate, label, or cast out others for their differences and their contrast to our life.

And that is my two cents…

An Open Letter to Those Without Invisible Disability or Chronic Illness (Reblog)

This is a very direct, to the point letter written to educate on Chronic Illness and how to support someone in your life that is struggling with one.

http://notdoneliving.net/openletter/id

That Dirty Two-Letter Word…

One of the most difficult lessons for me as I am learning how to live this new life with my illness is learning how to set boundaries, and when to say that dirty, two letter word… no”. Most likely the reason it is so hard now is because it was not necessarily my strong point before I got sick!  It takes a clear vision and direction, the ability to prioritize, as well as having self-respect to know when to draw a line and when to give or bend…and self-respect is still a developing quality in my life.

My tendency is to avoid the issue rather than directly say the word “no”.  I will drop hints with the hope that the other person will understand and back off by reading between the lines.  I will dodge phone calls and go into hiding rather than directly face the situation.  I can get amazingly creative in coming up with ways to communicate my feelings without ever actually saying the “N” word!  But of course, I am seeing that there are many instances that this tactic fails and it just prolongs the inevitable and causes a simple issue to be drawn out and become a complicated and confusing one for both parties.

Ugh…     my backbone is there…     somewhere

Because I have so much love and respect for the people in my life, it seems that currently, the best way for me to recognize when it is time to draw a line is to try to pull back and view the situation as how I might advise a friend who is going through it.

For example:

If my friend were in this position would I think she should feel guilty for saying no and setting a boundary in place?  If my friend said no, would she deserve to look like the bad guy in her own eyes or anyone else’s?

Usually the answer is very obvious and clear to me if I look at it this way.  And the truth is, that I deserve the same respect and freedom to make decisions that I feel best serve myself and my family.

No questions asked.

I assume the best way to continue to grow in this area is just to practice doing what I feel is best.  Even if it means I have to call the person right back because I didn’t have the nerve initially to say what I should have said.  If I handle myself with self-control, with kindness, and am true to myself by recognizing that I have limitations and they are there for a reason (to protect and preserve the priorities that I have defined and to enable me to invest in and cultivate the relationships and goals that are most important to me), then I can have peace and leave the other person’s reaction and response to them and feel comfortable with my decision. I also have to accept the fact that the reasons that I have and the basis for my decisions may never be satisfactory to the other person, and that I do not need to explain, justify, or expect them to be in complete harmony with my choice before I can make peace with my decision.  As much as I love people and I love to give of myself and resources,

Generosity, when not partnered with boundaries, can quickly turn into self-deprecating and counterproductive behavior.

The line is an absolutely fine one, and is difficult to recognize, but I am going to continue doing my best to train my eye to pinpoint that place where the former transitions into the latter.

To Be Known…

If I am to be known for something, I want to be known for loving.  Loving a little too much, a little too openly… Maybe being a little “over the top” with my words, putting a little too much thought/prayers into the lives around me, being a little too trusting… a little too blind to others’ shortcomings and forgiving a little too quickly.  The mom that says “I love you” so many times that it embarrasses her children.  Takes a few too many pictures, laughs a little too hard and gets tickled by things that really should have been frustrating (like my youngest little fireball somehow managing to pick on her big sister!).  The daughter that tends to and loves her mother in the same nurturing way that she was tended to and who only sees the positive effort that was given to her with such love during her childhood.  I want to be the sister that pushes a little too hard for openness and friendship between each other, the friend who treats her friends like she treats her sister, and the aunt who fusses a little too much and too loudly over how much each little niece and nephew has grown since last they were seen (and man have they grown) and who says too many times how beautiful/handsome and how proud of them she is.  I hope to also be the kind of friend that listens without bias, encourages without an agenda, who cries and shares the burden when her friend is hurting and laughs till she cries about the memories that have been formed along this crazy journey of sharing our lives together.  To also be the wife that sees her husband in the same way that she saw him when they were dating and who still gets chills up her spine when he holds her and looks into her eyes, and who still considers her husband to be her very best friend.  Maybe holds him a little too long each time he heads out the door, and babies him a little too much even though he insists all is well.

I want to work a little too hard for my clients.   Go above and beyond and give them a little too much.  Maybe expect a little too much of myself.  Maybe even encourage others around me to do the same.

I am working hard at becoming a little too transparent… maybe by being so you will see that we are both human… that we have a little more in common than you thought.  Maybe we both mess up, we both harbor insecurities, and we both have been hurt… maybe a little too much.  I’m definitely not too perfect, and I am not going to waste the energy pretending to be and trying to deceive others, nor could I pull it off.  Who likes to hang out with someone who is too perfect anyway?  I’m pretty sure that only makes those of us who are a little too flawed feel a little too small!

I want to eat a little too healthy, take care of myself so that I can keep giving.  On the other hand… a little too many sweets, too many risks taken, laughing a little too much, wouldn’t hurt my feelings either.

I want to “spend” every ounce of life that has been given to me so that at the end I know that I have given it all, lived completely, not a drop left over.  What would be the point of my preserving it, when it might be watered and tended to by you, and grow into something that lives beyond me.  That would be amazing.  I want my legacy to do that…outlive me.  Make an impact, guide and influence, provide for others in some capacity, and touch someone’s life with warmth that is just enough to shift their day towards a positive direction…maybe it could even change their future and in turn the future of someone that they know.  Maybe that’s a little too idealistic?

Maybe this is a little too dramatic… a little too sappy…maybe I am a little too naive…but if I am to be known for something… I want to be known for loving this way.

Maybe I am just “a little too___________”.   If so, at this moment and time I think I am ok with that.